Chapter 7


It will be pleasanter to tell you something about the missions of
those times; for a great deal of missionary work was then carried

(1.) The Bulgarians, who had come from Asia in the end of the
seventh century, and had settled in the country which still takes
its name from them, were converted by missionaries of the Greek
Church. It is said that, when some beginning of the work had been
made, and the king himself had been baptized by the patriarch of
Constantinople (AD 861), the king asked the Greek emperor to send
him a painter to adorn the walls of his palace; and that a monk
named Methodius was sent accordingly, for in those times monks were
the only persons who practised such arts as painting. The king
desired him to paint a hall in the palace with subjects of a
terrible kind, by which he meant that the pictures should be taken
from the perils of hunting. But, instead of such subjects, Methodius
painted the last judgment, as being the most terrible of all things;
and the king, on seeing the picture of hell with its torments, and
being told that such would be the future place of the heathen, was
so terrified that he gave up the idols which he had kept until then,
and that many of his subjects were also moved to seek admission into
the Church.

Although the conversion of Bulgaria had been the work of Greek
missionaries, the popes afterwards sent some of their clergy into
the country, and claimed it as belonging to them; and this was one
of the chief causes why the Greek and the Latin Churches separated
from each other so that they have never since been really

(2.) It is not certain whether the painter Methodius was the
same as a monk of that name, who, with his brother named Cyril,
brought about the conversion of Moravia (AD 863). These missionaries
went about their work in a different way from what was common; for
it had been usual for the Greek clergy to use the Greek language,
and for the Western clergy to use the Latin, in their church service
and in other things relating to religion; but instead of this, Cyril
and Methodius learnt the language of the country, and translated the
church-services, with parts of the holy Scriptures, into it: so that
all might be understood by the natives. In Moravia, too, there was a
quarrel between the Greek and the Latin clergy; but, although the
popes usually insisted that the services of the Church should be
either in Latin or in Greek (because these were two of the languages
which were written over the Saviour's cross), they were so much
pleased with the success of Cyril and Methodius, that they allowed
the service of the Moravian Church to be still in the language of
the country.

(3.) Soon after the conversion of the Moravians, the duke of
Bohemia paid a visit to their king, Swatopluk, who received him with
great honour, but at dinner set him and his followers to sit on the
floor, as being heathens. Methodius, who was at the king's table,
spoke to the duke, and said that he was sorry to see so great a
prince obliged to feed as if he were a swineherd. "What should I
gain by becoming a Christian," he replied, and when Methodius told
him that the change would raise him above all kings and princes, he
and his thirty followers were baptized.

A story of the same kind is told as to the conversion of the
Carinthians, which was brought about in the end of the eighth
century by a missionary named Ingo, who asked Christian slaves to
eat at his own table, while he caused food to be set outside the
door for their heathen masters, as if they had been dogs. This led
the Carinthian nobles to ask questions; and in consequence of what
they heard they were baptized, and their example was followed by
their people generally.

The second bishop of Prague, the chief city of Bohemia, Adalbert, is
famous as having gone on a mission to the heathens of Prussia, by
whom he was martyred on the shore of the Frische Haff in 997.

(4.) In the north of Germany, in Denmark, and in Sweden,
Anskar, who had been a monk at Corbey, on the Weser, laboured for
thirty-nine years with earnest devotion and with great success (AD
826-865). In addition to preaching the Gospel of salvation, he did
much in such charitable works as the building of hospitals and the
redemption of captives; and he persuaded the chief men of the
country north of the Elba to give up their trade in slaves, which
had been a source of great profit to them, but which Anskar taught
them to regard as contrary to the Christian religion. Anskar was
made archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, and is styled "The Apostle of
the North." But he had to suffer many dangers and reverses in his
endeavours to do good. At one time, when Hamburg was burnt by the
Northmen, he lost his church, his monastery, his library, and other
property; but he only said, with the patriarch Job, "The Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Then
he set to work again, without being discouraged by what had befallen
him, and he even made a friend of the heathen king who had led the
attack on Hamburg. Anskar died in the year 865. It is told that when
some of his friends were talking of miracles which he was supposed
to have done, he said, "If I were worthy in my Lord's sight, I would
ask of Him to grant me one miracle--that He would make me a good

(5.) The Russians were visited by missionaries from Greece,
from Rome, and from Germany, so that for a time they wavered between
the different forms of the Christian religion which were offered to
them; but at length they decided for the Greek Church. When their
great prince (who at his baptism took the name of Basil) had been
converted (AD 988), he ordered that the idol of the chief god who
had been worshipped by the Russians should be dragged at a horse's
tail through the streets of the capital, Kieff, and should be thrown
into the river Dnieper. Many of the people burst into tears at the
sight; but when they were told that the prince wished them to be
baptized, they said that a change of religion must be good if their
prince recommended it; and they were baptized in great numbers.
"Some," we are told, "stood in the water up to their necks, others
up to their breasts, holding their young children in their arms; and
the priests read the prayers from the bank of the river, naming at
once whole companies by the same name."

(6.) I might give an account of the spreading of the Gospel in
Poland, Hungary, and other countries; but let us keep ourselves to
the north of Europe. Although Anskar had given up his whole life to
missionary work among the nations near the Baltic Sea, there was
still much to be done, and sometimes conversion was carried on in
ways which to us seem very strange. As an instance of this, I may
give some account of a Norwegian king named Olave, the son of

Olave was at first a heathen, and had long been a famous sea-rover,
when he was converted and baptized in one of the Scilly islands (AD
994). He took up his new religion with a great desire to spread it
among his people, and he went about from one part of Norway to
another, everywhere destroying temples and idols, and requiring the
people to he baptized whether they were willing or not. At one place
he found eighty heathens, who were supposed to be wizards. He first
tried to convert them in the morning when they were sober, and again
in the evening when they were enjoying themselves over their horns
of ale; and as he could not persuade them, whether they were sober
or drunk, he burnt their temple over their heads. All the eighty
perished except one, who made his escape; and this man afterwards
fell into the king's hands, and was thrown into the sea.

At another time, Olave fell in with a young man named Endrid, who
agreed to become a Christian if any one whom the king might appoint
should beat him in diving, in archery, and in sword-play. Olave
himself undertook the match, and got the better of Endrid in all the
trials; and then Endrid gave in, and allowed himself to be converted
and baptized. These were strange ways of spreading the Gospel; but
they seem to have had their effect on the rough men of the North.

At last, Olave was attacked by some of his heathen neighbours, and
was beaten in a great sea-fight (AD 1000). It was generally believed
that he had perished in the sea; but there is a story of a Norwegian
pilgrim who, nearly fifty pears later, lost his way among the
sands of Egypt, and lighted on a lonely monastery, with an old man
of his own country as its abbot. The abbot put many questions to
him, and asked him to carry home a girdle and a sword and to give
them with a message to a warrior who had fought bravely beside King
Olave in his last battle; and on receiving them the old warrior was
assured that the Egyptian abbot could be no other than his royal
master, who had been so long supposed to be dead.

Somewhat later than Olave the son of Tryggve (AD 1015), Norway had
another king Olave, who was very zealous for the spreading of the
Gospel among his people, and, like the elder Olave, was willing to
do so by force if he could not manage the matter otherwise. On his
visiting a place called Dalen, a bishop named Grimkil, who
accompanied him, set forth the Christian doctrine, but the heathens
answered that their own god was better than the God of the
Christians, because he could be seen. The king spent the greater
part of the night in prayer, and next morning at daybreak the idol
of the northern god Thor was brought forward by his worshippers.
Olave pointed to the rising sun, as being a witness to the glory of
its Maker; and, while the heathens were gazing on its brightness, a
tall soldier, to whom the king had given his orders beforehand,
lifted up his club and dashed the idol to pieces. A swarm of
loathsome creatures, which had lived within the idol's huge body,
and had fattened on the food and drink which were offered to it,
rushed forth, as in the case of the image of Serapis, hundreds of
years before (Part I, Chap. XVI); whereupon the men of Dalen were
convinced of the falsehood of their old religion, and consented to
be baptized. King Olave was at length killed in battle against his
heathen subjects (AD 1030), and his memory is regarded as that of a

(7.) From Norway the Gospel made its way to the Norwegian
settlements in Iceland, and even in Greenland, where it long
flourished, until, in the middle of the fifteenth century, ice
gathered on the shores so as to make it impossible to land on them.
About the same time a great plague, which was called the Black
Death, carried off a large part of the settlers, and the rest were
so few and so weak that they were easily killed by the natives.

It seems to be certain that some of the Norwegians from Greenland
discovered a part of the American continent, although no traces of
them remained there when the country was again discovered by
Europeans, hundreds of years later.