The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview

MISSIONARIES AND THE CHRISTIAN FRONTIER

Ian Wood

State boundaries apart, frontiers are essentially matters of perception. Where one man sees a barrier another sees a path. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in a letter written by Bruno of Querfurt to the emperor Henry II in 1008. Bruno wished to evangelise the Petschenegs, but

the leader of the Rus, a man with a large kingdom and much wealth,
held me back for a month, against my will, and, as if I wished to lose
myself of my own accord, he argued with me, that I should not go to
such an irrational people, among whom I would find no souls to be won,
but only death and that the most base. But when he could not [dissuade
me], having been terrified by a vision of me although I was unworthy,
he led me for two days, with his army, right up to the final boundary
(terminum ultimum) of his kingdom, which was sealed off on all sides by a
very strong and very long fence (firmissima et longissima sepe) against the
wandering enemy. He got off his horse and sat on the ground: I went
on ahead with my companions, through the gate, and he followed with
his magnates. He stood on one and we stood on another hill. I myself
bore a cross in the grip of my hands, singing the noble song, “Peter you
love me, feed my sheep”. After the responsorium had ended he sent his
magnate to us with these words: “I have led you to the limit of my land,
where that of the enemy begins. I ask for God's sake that you do not
lose a young life to my shame. I know that you will taste a bitter death
for no reason, tomorrow, before three days, having achieved nothing.” I
replied, “May God open paradise for you, as he has opened the road to
the pagans for us.” What more? We travelled for two days, harmed by
no one, and on the third day, a Saturday, we were all led three times,
in the morning, at midday and at the ninth hour, to be executed, with
our necks bowed, but as often we went unharmed from the enemy who
had surrounded us (for thus God and our leader Peter spoke with a won-
derful sign).1

For the king of the Rus his kingdom was surrounded by a fence: for Bruno the route through the fence was a path to the pagans, which was in its own way a path to salvation.

1 Bruno, Epistula to Henry II: see the comments in S. Franklin and J. Shepard, The
Emergence of Rus 750–1200 (London, 1996), p. 172.

-209-

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