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The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

II
THE CHRISTIAN FRONTIER

i. The Theory of Mission

On the west front of the abbey church at Vézelay there is a carving of the glorified Christ sending his power upon the apostles. In the outer bands of the composition are representations of the peoples of the world, including the distant dog-headed races of whom geographers had told. This carving was a confident statement of the universal mission of the church, inspired perhaps by Abbot Peter of Cluny, and it stood at one of the centres of Christendom, where the Second Crusade was preached and the Third Crusade assembled. The missionary task was conceived in a very different way from the approach in more recent ages, which have seen religion as a matter of personal conviction. The medieval assumption, on the contrary, was that the Christian faith provided the framework of a healthy society. As they saw it, they were confronted outside Christendom with an evil society founded upon idolatry, and their task was to replace it by an order which rested upon the sure ground of reverence for the one true God. Thus in 1007 the synod of Frankfurt saw the purpose of the new bishopric of Bamberg as being 'both that the paganism of the Slavs may be destroyed and also that the memory of the Christian name may be forever celebrated there'. 1 To destroy pagan worship and to substitute for it the cult of the true God remained the double objective throughout our period; as the leaders of the First Crusade put it, their aim was 'that . . . when the strength of the Saracens and of the devil is broken, the kingdom of Christ and of the church may extend everywhere from sea to sea'. 2 As these words imply, the awareness was growing strong of a territorial division between the lands where Christ ruled, and the dominions of the false gods. The term Christianitas was not new, but its use greatly increased around 1100 as an expression for the geographical concept

____________________
1
MGH Diplornata, III no. 143, p. 170.
2
H. Hagenmeyer, Epistulae et chartae ad historiam primi belli sacri spectantes ( Innsbruck, 1901; repr. Hildesheirn, 1973), ep. XVIII, p. 171.

-263-

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