Aspects of Christianization in the ecclesiastical province of Trier from 570-630: a modes theory analysis

Boyle, Jennifer (2013) Aspects of Christianization in the ecclesiastical province of Trier from 570-630: a modes theory analysis. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines Christianization in the ecclesiastical province of Trier from 570-630, using both traditional and more recent theoretical approaches. It begins by examining the paradigms and limitations of current approaches both to the Merovingian Church and to the concepts of ‘paganism’ and ‘Christianization’. It then introduces the cognitive science of religion focusing in particular on Harvey Whitehouse’s postulation of ‘doctrinal’ and ‘imagistic’ ‘modes of religiosity’ as a theoretical tool.

The subsequent section deals with the cult of saints and the figure of the bishop both in general and in the province, using Whitehouse’s approach as a means of opening these up and allowing parallels to be drawn between the cult of saints and funerary feasting. At the same time, his theory is challenged by the variation within these activities in terms of participants and frequency of occurrence. The complex nature of Merovingian monasticism also presents a degree of challenge to Whitehouse’s perception of medieval monasticism as monolithic. Nevertheless, the application of ideas regarding the imagistic mode to recluses opened up new avenues of discussion. A focus on the ecclesiastical province of Trier suggests that the advent of Columbanian monasticism did not produce an instant surge in the number of rural monasteries in the north-east.

Examination of church councils offered a double opportunity for the application of modes theory, both to the contents of the councils and to the institution of the councils themselves. A closer examination of councils in the context of place allows for consideration of regional variation. Modes theory is once again challenged: while councils may appear at first to be a supremely doctrinal phenomenon (involving policing and uniformity), they also involve negotiation, ingenuity and reflection.

The paucity of sources for the north east tests the regional approach taken here: but it also encourages questions to be asked regarding the spread of manuscripts and ideas. Modes theory reveals the motivations behind apparently prosaic sermon collections as sophisticated, aiming at the policing of the clergy and laity and ensuring the stability of ‘correct’ doctrine. The section on the Synod of Auxerre dealing with standards amongst the clergy and parish care raises questions regarding the possibility of shared beliefs. An examination of the Life of Goar reveals that although its contents might seem appealing in elucidating more details of parish care, the context of the source called its reliability into question.

Finally, an analysis of burial rites via three cemeteries in the province of Trier tested the limits of modes theory, and other cognitive approaches were recruited to examine the impact of the concept of liminality on burial practice. Presentation of geographical and archaeological evidence is discussed it is suggested that more extensive database work would enable comparative regional study, allowing for a closer examination of belief, burial and Christianization.

This study concludes that the use of modes theory, together with other insights drawn from the cognitive science of religion, offers an alternative and illuminating approach to Christianization. It suggests that future research should regard this as a valid methodological tool for the analysis of medieval religion. It also suggests that a regional focus would benefit future studies of the Merovingian period.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Medieval, Gaul, Francia, Christianity, Christianization, modes, cognitive science of religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Dunn, Dr. Marilyn
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Dr Jennifer Boyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4342
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2013 15:04
Last Modified: 31 May 2016 09:15

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