Thursday, February 10, 2011

History of the Saxon War 2: "Hewald the White and Hewald the Black."

When Hewald the White and Hewald the Black, two Christian Anglo-Saxon missionaries, left their native England on a mission trip to their Continental Saxon cousins sometime around 695, they were blessed with the greatest gift that could have been bestowed upon them: martyrdom.

According to the Venerable Bede, it was some village commoners (Bede uses the Latin vicani, "villager") who slew the missionaries, and they did so in great haste in order to prevent any chance of the gospel-peddlers from meeting with their chieftain, whom the vicani feared might be swayed, with the result that "the whole people would be compelled to change its old religion for the new one."

Fifty years (or so) later, another English missionary did manage to make contact with some Saxon nobles, and these responded at least sympathetically enough to provide protection ... for as long as they were able to. But eventually a mob of Saxon commoners burned the newly built Church and chased away the missionary along with all those who had converted. This missionary, named Lebuin, was foolish enough to return and try again, only to once again narrowly escape with his life. Coward! Twice he declined the generosity proffered by the humble Saxons who would have been only too happy to arrange for this good Christian to meet his Savior sooner rather than later.

For more details and references on what is related in the above three paragraphs, see Eric J. Goldberg's 1995 paper on The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered. That paper, as it's title indicates, is primarily focused on the 841 Stellinga Uprising (which I will get to soon in a future installment), but it also spends some time establishing the broader context of and motivations for the Saxon resistance to Christianization. In particular, Goldberg discusses the class divisions within Saxon society and the ways in which these divisions influenced differing responses among different Saxons to the new religion...

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