Early Christianity in Europe

by blackspanielgallery

Christianity developed in Europe due to some significant figures in history, and without them things might be quite different.

In the early days of Christianity travel and communication were arduous at best, but the Romans did have a road system. Since the Holy Land was at that time part of the Roman Empire it was possible to travel into southern Europe to Rome, with cities in Greece and what is now Turkey along the way. As the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus traveled they were able to evangelize in major population centers to a certain degree. Remember, since Julius Caesar the Roman Emperors declared themselves to be gods, and were threatened by a monotheistic religion.

Secrecy in the early Christian communities was essential, since the Roman Emperors made being a Christian illegal.

The Joseph of Arimathea Legend

There is a legend, although far from proven, that Joseph of Arimathea was an uncle of Mary, and also was a wealthy merchant.  The legend has him traveling and spreading Christianity throughout Europe and into England.  Of course legends are not to be taken too seriously. 

Constantine the Great

In the early fourth century Constantine I, also called Constantine the Great, legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, and revealed that he was himself a Christian.  His mother, Saint Helena, who was Christian, is often credited with his acceptance of Christianity.


During and after Constantine Christianity was able to develop throughout the Roman Empire.  This led to conversions as far as Britain, at least the part occupied by the Romans. 


Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick was a bishop in about the fifth century.  He is often credited with converting Ireland.  Whether he, himself, went to Ireland cannot be determined, but it was either him or it was missionaries that he sent.  In either case he is given credit for the conversion of Ireland.


It was Irish monasteries that educated many nobles of England.  With Christianity established in the south by the Romans, and influences from Christian Ireland, England embraced Christianity, at least in part

Clovis and Clotilde

Until the sixth century Europe was besieged by barbarians.  Indeed, there were later attacks, but in the fifth century the Franks entered Gaul with a formidable army and superior weapons.  They soon displaced other invaders who had preceded them.


One leader, Clovis, unite the two groups of Franks.  Now there was a single leader.  Their territory included much of Europe, including modern Germany and France.


Clovis married Clotilde, a devout Roman Catholic.  She tried for years to convert Clovis.  Then, when Clovis was losing a battle and his gods failed him he tried praying to the Christian God he had heard of through his wife.  The battle turned, and he personally survived what should have been lethal attacks on him.  He became Catholic, and his army followed.  Christianity was now well entrenched in most of Europe.


When the Visigoths were in control of much of Italy, and the request by the Pope for assistance from the Eastern Roman Emperor was rebuked, it was Clovis and his Franks who came to the rescue, driving the Visigoths west.  At that time saving Rome was significant in saving Christianity.


Charles Martel

In the eighth century Christianity was threatened in Europe by the Muslims who had already conquered much of Europe.  Charles Martel assembled an army, and had a fighting force unestimated by the Muslims.  His force met and surprised the invading Muslims, driving them back to the Iberian Peninsula.

Carl I, Charlemagne

The Frankish leaders who had come before Charlemagne died, splitting their empire over and over.  However, a capable leader, one who would preserve the Franks and the Christianity religion came to power.  Charlemagne reunited the Franks, and was crowned as the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 by the Pope. His reign insured Christianity would be preserved in much of Europe.



Rollo was a Viking chieftain, and it was Rollo’s forces that attacked Paris.  The Vikings could fight vicious battles, but they also could cultivate land and trade.  A peace was established with the Norse men settling Normandy under Rollo.


William the Conqueror

William was a direct descendant of Rollo.  He was, like Rollo, a Roman Catholic.  After his invasion of Britain his descendants assured there would be Christian monarchs.  This helped keep Britain Christian.




There were many others, but I am just mentioning some of the most significant figures in establishing and preserving Christianity in Europe.


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Updated: 09/26/2017, blackspanielgallery
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frankbeswick on 12/15/2016

Early Christianity came to Ireland before Patrick, and there are some signs, notably monks standing to pray with arms outstretched, that indicate an Egyptian connection. I think it right to say that the idea that St Patrick came from Scotland is erroneous, as I think that he was British,probably from South Wales or the areas of what was later to be England near to it.

blackspanielgallery on 12/15/2016

Yes, it opened up a route to Constantinople and the cities of Greece and Italy, and shortened the land route to those somewhat inland. The Romans had no interest in spreading Christianity, but that spread was certainly aided by their infrastructure and their need to protect the Empire, including from attack on their trading routes at sea.

frankbeswick on 12/15/2016

The fact that Rome kept the Mediterranean free of pirates was a great help to early Christian travelers.

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