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Title: Landscapes of conversion in eighth century Hessia : an interdisciplinary approach to the Anglo-Saxon mission of St Boniface
Author: Wilson Clay, John-Henry
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2008
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Abstract:
This thesis is the first large-scale study of the mission of the Anglo-Saxon Saint Boniface to Hessia, a region in the centre of modern Germany, between 721 and 754. The aim of the study is to explore in more detail than has so far been achieved three aspects of the Bonifatian mission in Hessia: first, his fonnative years in Wessex and the political context of Hessia before his arrival; second, the ways in which the Anglo-Saxon missionaries represented certain aspects of mission in their literary discourse with Insular and Roman contacts; third, the specific challenges of the mission and the methods used by the missionaries to overcome them. The thesis takes an interdisciplinary approach that has not yet been attempted in Bonifatian studies. The historical sources chiefly include the surviving letters of Boniface and his associates as well as the later vitae of Boniface and several other figures connected to his mission. The archaeological sources include furnished burials, fortifications, settlements and ceramics. These sources are brought together with the aid of a considerable amount of original toponymical and topographical research within Hessia itself. The thesis is divided into three parts. In Part I, after an introduction and historiography (chapter 1), the theoretical and methodological foundations of the thesis are established (chapter 2). In Part II, Boniface's early years in the West Saxon church (chapter 3) and the development of Frankish rule in Hessia between the early sixth century and the beginning of Boniface's mission (chapter 4) are contextualised more fully than previous studies have attempted. In chapter 3 several features of the church and kingdom of Wessex are identified that would fundamentally inform Boniface's approach in Hessia. In chapter 4 a new model for the development of Frankish influence in Hessia up to 721 is outlined, and its significance for the Bonifatian mission discussed. Part III focuses attention on the Bonifatian mission in Hessia. Chapter 5 offers a broad overview of the mission: important cronological matters are discussed and clarified and the progress and development of the mission between 721 and 754 is outlined. It is argued that Boniface made a concerted attempt to evangelise Saxony from 739 onwards, but that his efforts were thwarted by growing political instability 2 on the Hessian-Saxon borderlands and the opposition of elements of the Rhineland Frankish church to his mission. Chapters 6 and 7 explore two important aspects of the mission. First (chapter 6), the letters of Boniface and LuI are subjected to careful textual analysis. Second (chapter 7), several specific features of the Hessian mission are explored in more detail. In chapter 6 a distinction is identified in the nature of the literary discourse between the missionary community and papal Rome on the one hand, and the missionary community and the Insular Anglo-Saxon church on the other. The argument is made that the literary representation of the mission in letters between Anglo-Saxons, in contrast to letters between Anglo-Saxons and Rome, reflected a distinctive conceptualisation of continental mission that combined emotive themes of peregrillatio, suffering and the concept of Germallia as an ancestral homeland that had been ensnared by Satan. In chapter 7 the Bonifatian mission In Hessia is examined from several viewpoints. Using topographical and toponymical evidence, an original argument is put forward for the existence of numerous pagan cult sites within Hessia that together constituted part of a pre-Christian 'sacred landscape'. This is followed by an examination of the earliest ecclesiatical foundations of Hessia. New observations and arguments are proposed concerning the development of Hessia's early ecclesiastical landscape during Boniface's mission, and this landscape is then discussed in relation to the 'pagan' landscape which it was intended to supplant. This is followed by a detailed discussion of Boniface's attempts to gain material support for his mission through his dealings with the Frankish clerical and lay elites, with a special emphasis, using original charter-based research, on his relationship with the local secular elites of Hessia. Finally, the ways in which Boniface evangelised and instructed the population of Hessia and attempted to maintain control of his mission territories are examined. By taking a broad, contextualising, interdisciplinary approach, this study illuminates the ways in which Boniface, strongly influenced by the structure of the West Saxon church, made practical attempts to establish a coherent ecclesiastical network in a politically volatile region where pagan customs and identity were deeply inscribed in the landscape. Through the textual analysis of the letters, the dissertation also presents the argument that the conceptualisation of mission as an inherently painful peregrinatio encouraged Boniface and his fellow missionaries, despite circumstances of extreme adversity in Boniface's final years, not to abandon their largely thwarted evangelisation of the Hessian-Saxon borderlands. In doing so, the study offers invaluable new perspectives on and insights into the Bonifatian mission in Hessia. The second volume of the thesis contains: three appendices giving the results of the textual analysis of the letters of Boniface and Lul discussed in chapter 6; two appendices listing the grantors of property to Hersfeld and Fulda referred to in the discussion of charter evidence in chapter 7; and all figures and plates referred to in the first volume.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.490268  DOI: Not available
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