Special Issue "The Many Faces of Faith: Celtic and Germanic Christianity in the Middle Ages"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Samuel Youngs
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Christian Studies, Bryan College, Dayton 37321, TN, USA
Interests: Christian history; contextualization of religion; interreligious dialogue; modern and postmodern theology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our corporate understanding of Christianity’s life in the Middle Ages has exploded in recent decades, but there is still much unknown and unexamined in this vast stretch of history. Advancements in cross-cultural study have also continued apace, equipping us with better tools for mining dynamic interplays between peoples and cultures. At the intersection of these burgeoning academic currents lies the multi-faceted contextualization of Christian theology and spirituality in the Middle Ages.

This volume will look to make valuable additions to these areas of inquiry along the lines that have been opened by recent publications like Understanding Celtic Religion (Ritari and Bergholm 2015) and Post-Roman Transitions: Christian and Barbarian Identities in the Early Medieval West (Pohl and Heydemann 2013). Papers submitted for consideration for this volume may focus on any of the following topics as they relate to Christianity’s interaction with and reception among either Germanic or Celtic people groups:

  • Conversion, missions, and proselytizing, especially their uniquely contextualized formations;
  • Personal spirituality, especially the endurance of vestigial or contextualized pagan practice, belief, or identity within more-official Christianity;
  • Scripture, especially related to work in translation or textual reproduction that is uniquely marked by these contexts;
  • Religious narrative, especially applied to hagiography and its cross-pollination with events, themes, or figures of pagan mythology;
  • Christian theological doctrine, especially as modified/contextualized by historical encounters with any of the above-listed dynamics.

Essays can be focused broadly (e.g., comparison of a religious doctrine in multiple contexts/periods) or narrowly (e.g., examination of an individual religious text or an individual archeological artifact). To facilitate as much freedom and diversity as possible across the submissions, this volume considers the “Middle Ages” in its broadest extent: from the fall of Rome in the 5th century to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

References

Ritari, Katja, and Alexandra Bergholm. 2015. Understanding Celtic religion: revisiting the pagan past. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Pohl, Walter. 2013. Christian and barbarian identities in the early medieval West: introduction. In Post-Roman Transitions: Christian and Barbarian Identities in the Early Medieval West. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 1–46.

Dr. Samuel Youngs
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • medieval religion
  • contextualization
  • Germanic Christianity
  • Celtic Christianity
  • missions

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Between Sea and Land: Geographical and Literary Marginality in the Conversion of Medieval Frisia
Religions 2021, 12(8), 580; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080580 - 28 Jul 2021
Viewed by 488
Abstract
Ancient and medieval Frisia was an ethno-linguistic entity far larger than the modern province of Friesland, Netherlands. Water outweighed land over its geographical extent, and its marginal political status, unconquered by the Romans and without the feudal social structure typical of the Middle [...] Read more.
Ancient and medieval Frisia was an ethno-linguistic entity far larger than the modern province of Friesland, Netherlands. Water outweighed land over its geographical extent, and its marginal political status, unconquered by the Romans and without the feudal social structure typical of the Middle Ages, made Frisia independent and strange to its would-be conquerors. This article opens with Frisia’s encounters with Rome, and its portrayal in Latin texts as a wretched land of water-logged beggars, ultimately unworthy of annexation. Next, the early medieval conflict between the Frisians and the Danes/Geats, featured in Beowulf and other epic fragments, is examined. Pagan Frisia became of interest during Frankish territorial expansion via a combination of missionary activity and warfare from the seventh century onward. The vitae of saints Willibrord, Boniface, Liudger and Wulfram provide insights into the conversion of Frisia, and the resistance to Christianity and Frankish overlordship of Radbod, its last Pagan king. It is contended that the watery terrain and distinctive culture of Frisia (pastoralism, seafaring, Pagan religion) as noted in ancient and medieval texts rendered it “other” to politically centralized entities such as Rome and Francia. Frisia was eventually tamed and integrated through conversion to Christianity and absorption into Francia after the death of Radbod. Full article
Article
Rites of Initiation in the Early Irish Church: The Evidence of the High Crosses
Religions 2021, 12(5), 329; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050329 - 08 May 2021
Viewed by 620
Abstract
Rites of Initiation in early medieval Ireland have been studied only with reference to contemporary texts; recourse to other sources, most notably the substantial corpus of extant high crosses, has not been made. Here it will be demonstrated that the iconography and programmatic [...] Read more.
Rites of Initiation in early medieval Ireland have been studied only with reference to contemporary texts; recourse to other sources, most notably the substantial corpus of extant high crosses, has not been made. Here it will be demonstrated that the iconography and programmatic arrangement of the depictions of Noah’s Ark, the Baptism of Christ, and the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace can significantly advance theological and liturgical understanding of the early medieval rites of baptism and ordination in this region, indicating the central role of these biblical events and their associated literatures in these contexts. It will be further suggested that this relationship between text, image, and ritual points to the role of the high crosses in facilitating the liturgical rites of the early medieval Irish Church. Full article
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Article
A Transcript of Submission: Jesus as Fated Victim of Divine Violence in the Old Saxon Heliand
Religions 2021, 12(5), 306; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050306 - 28 Apr 2021
Viewed by 443
Abstract
The Heliand, written shortly after the conquest and conversion of the Saxons at the hands of Charlemagne, maintains a vexed place in the study of medieval European Christianity(ies). Some argue that the Heliand’s overarching intent was pastoral, meant to ease the [...] Read more.
The Heliand, written shortly after the conquest and conversion of the Saxons at the hands of Charlemagne, maintains a vexed place in the study of medieval European Christianity(ies). Some argue that the Heliand’s overarching intent was pastoral, meant to ease the fears and calm the rage of the defeated Saxons, while others posit that the Heliand reflects a “dissident gospel,” aimed at subverting the official theological outlook of the Carolingian empire. This study argues that while both theories capture something of the Heliand’s ingenious contextual impact, they underestimate one of its key themes: the role of wurd (fate) and its co-identification with the “power of God,” which drives Jesus to the cross and scaffolds his submission to the violence of the divine will. Thus, the Heliand presents compliant victimization as the proper “fate” of those who submit to God’s purposes, promising a heavenly reward and countermanding the Saxon ethos of resistance. Full article
Article
Doorway to Devotion: Recovering the Christian Nature of the Gosforth Cross
Religions 2021, 12(4), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040228 - 24 Mar 2021
Viewed by 777
Abstract
The carved figural program of the tenth-century Gosforth Cross (Cumbria) has long been considered to depict Norse mythological episodes, leaving the potential Christian iconographic import of its Crucifixion carving underexplored. The scheme is analyzed here using earlier exegetical texts and sculptural precedents to [...] Read more.
The carved figural program of the tenth-century Gosforth Cross (Cumbria) has long been considered to depict Norse mythological episodes, leaving the potential Christian iconographic import of its Crucifixion carving underexplored. The scheme is analyzed here using earlier exegetical texts and sculptural precedents to explain the function of the frame surrounding Christ, by demonstrating how icons were viewed and understood in Anglo-Saxon England. The frame, signifying the iconic nature of the Crucifixion image, was intended to elicit the viewer’s compunction, contemplation and, subsequently, prayer, by facilitating a collapse of time and space that assimilates the historical event of the Crucifixion, the viewer’s present and the Parousia. Further, the arrangement of the Gosforth Crucifixion invokes theological concerns associated with the veneration of the cross, which were expressed in contemporary liturgical ceremonies and remained relevant within the tenth-century Anglo-Scandinavian context of the monument. In turn, understanding of the concerns underpinning this image enable potential Christian symbolic significances to be suggested for the remainder of the carvings on the cross-shaft, demonstrating that the iconographic program was selected with the intention of communicating, through multivalent frames of reference, the significance of Christ’s Crucifixion as the catalyst for the Second Coming. Full article
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Article
Ritual Lamentation in the Irish Penitentials
Religions 2021, 12(3), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030207 - 18 Mar 2021
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Abstract
Some of the earliest references to ritual lamentation or keening in the early Irish sources are found in the penitential handbooks dated to around the seventh and eighth centuries. In previous scholarship, these passages have commonly been interpreted as evidence of the continuous [...] Read more.
Some of the earliest references to ritual lamentation or keening in the early Irish sources are found in the penitential handbooks dated to around the seventh and eighth centuries. In previous scholarship, these passages have commonly been interpreted as evidence of the continuous attempts of the Church to curb pagan practices among the ‘nominally Christian’ populace, thus assuming that such regulations were primarily used as a means of social control. This article examines the wider theological and intellectual context of these texts, by focusing in particular on the influence of the Old Testament on early Irish ecclesiastical writing. It will be argued that the demonstrable preoccupation of these sources with issues such as ritual purity and proper religious observance suggests that the stipulations pertaining to lamentation were not solely intended to regulate lay behavior. Full article
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