View Full Version : Anglo-Saxon Missions to Frisia

Sunday, January 8th, 2006, 10:07 PM
The earliest Anglo-Saxon missionaries, Wilfrid and Willibrord,
concentrated on Frisia, establishing the essential political
character of theirs and subsequent missions. Wilfrid, bishop
of York, had been deposed by the archbishop of Canterbury
Theodore for objecting to the division of Wilfrid's huge
diocese, and was on his way to Rome via the Rhineland (his
assistance in arranging the return of Dagobert II had made
him persona non grata in Neustria) when he first arrived
among the Frisians. His successor Willibrord arrived in 690
and began his work under the protection of Pippin in those
areas that had been reconquered by the Franks. One of the
first things he did was to travel to Rome to obtain papal
sanction for his activities. This would have been unthinkable
for a Frankish clergyman, but seemed only natural to

The process of Christianizing the Frisians and subduing
them militarily went hand in hand. Conversion meant
conversion to Frankish Christianity and thus a radical break
with their own autonomous social and political past. The
Frisians understood this well. The story was told that Duke
Radbod was taking religious instruction and nearing the point
to be baptized when he asked Willibrord whether his ancestors
were in heaven or hell. The orthodox response was that they
were surely in hell because they had been pagans, but the
duke would no doubt achieve heaven after baptism. On
hearing this Radbod refused baptism, saying he could not do
without the company of his ancestors in the next life.

From: "Before France and Germany: The creation &
transformation of the Merovingian world",
by Patrick J. Geary; ISBN 0195044584; p.214