Poppo's ordeal: courtier bishops and the success of Christianization at the turn of the first millennium

Michael H Gelting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Through a critical review of previous scholarship, the article argues that the conversion of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth should not be dated to c. 965, as is usually done, but to 963, which is the date implied by Widukind of Corvey. The cleric Poppo, whose ordeal convinced the king and his men of the superiority of Christ, was not an obscure missionary, but a close collaborator of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, who at the time was the regent of Germany. On this background, a new interpretation of the political significance of the event in Germany and in Denmark is developed. Finally, it is suggested that the new clerical culture that was developing in German court circles in the mid-tenth century, as well as the concomitant exaltation of the German king and emperor’s quasi-sacral nature, made conversion a much more attractive option for pagan rulers in northern and eastern Europe than during previous centuries; this might contribute towards explaining the sudden success of Christianization in these regions in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-133
Number of pages33
JournalViking and Medieval Scandinavia
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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