THE CHURCH CHRIST FOUNDED – Christianity in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries

– Joni Cheng

The fifth and sixth centuries were a high point for the monastic movement, particularly by the works of St Patrick and St Benedict, which had not only planted the seeds for monastic life in the Church history, but also the seeds of a new evangelization.  The effect of these witnesses was the conversion of some of the important tribal leaders of the various non-christian tribes.

By the end of the barbarian invasion, the whole face of Europe was transformed and there were a mixture of races, institutions and religions.  The Church was the only institution that survived from the Western Empire, thus, it was the only source of the inestimable blessing of religion, order, and culture for the invaders, which resulted in the new Convert Kings.

For example, Clovis, the king of the Tribe of the Franks (present-day France) was still a pagan when he established his kingdom in the Roman Province of Gaul in 485 AD.  When King Clovis married the Burgundian princess, Clotilda, who was a devoted Catholic, in 493, he was impressed and influenced by her Christian example of admonitions and prayers.  Hence, King Clovis was baptized in 496 by St Remiqius, Bishop of Reims, and converted into Christianity.  Therefore, the nation followed the example of their leader and embraced Christianity.  Though King Clovis and the Franks did not really live up to the Christian teaching, they were proud of their new religion where Christ was their special protector.  It was this zeal for the true faith and not merely just political ambition that moved King Clovis and his sons to drive out the Arian heresy.

Before the middle of the sixth century, Gaul to the Pyrenees had been reconquered for the Catholic faith, while the rest of Europe, with the exception of Ireland, was converted by the monastic movements of the spiritual sons of St Patrick and St Benedict. Ireland was still under the power of Arianism or paganism.  Later in the middle of the sixth century, more tribal kings were also converted, i.e. Reccared, the king of the Visigoths, was converted to Christianity as well.

During this time, the mission of the Church changed to convert their conquerors, these various tribal leaders, and these peoples who had taken over the western part of the empire. These were gradually were brought into the Church.  So little by little, the process of a new birth of Christianity began in the western part of the old Roman Empire.

In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the non-Christian conquerors and rulers such as Emperor Justinian and his general, Belisarius, reconquered some parts of the territory attempting to bring back the traditions and glory of the Roman Empire.  However, after their deaths, the empire began to weaken and with the rise of Islam in the seventh century, they were defeated by its rising force.