• Renatus

Celtic Christianity and Boniface

Aktualisiert: 9. März 2019

A Journey into the Depth of History and Self.

The Germans have a national apostle: Boniface. I grew up learning about him in school. He is regarded to be the person who Christianized Germany i.e. the Celtic and Germanic tribes and people north of the Limes wall, which marked the northern border of the Roman Empire. After the Roman Empire faded into history it left a void that we call the beginnings of the dark ages. Nobody really knows what happened in these centuries (4th till 14th), which is quite a long time to not realy know what went on. “Dark” times like that are times of which myths are cast, speculations are made to neglect the uncertainty. Uncertainties, myths and speculations are things academic historians don’t favor. But instead of admitting that this long period is still fairly unknown, they do what they fight themselves: they contribute to myth and speculations. Lots of (“scientific”) theories are around which lack solid facts to back them up.

I don’t mind theories and daring hypothesis – I just don’t like when some of theme (by a majority, a trend, the “pope” or whoever) are claimed as true and others as false. In academia it’s often a fight about opinions and interpretation, and the most influential person writes history (I’m allowed to say that, I’m a "certified" scientist now). I find all of the hypothesis’s interesting and we should be humble enough to keep it open if the picture might change, which hypothesis will be kept as valuable and which not, as long as there is enough evidence supporting opposing interpretations. And I think there is more value in-between theories than in one of them alone.

The tale about Boniface is one of these questionable, little backupped stories. Little facts, a mainstream interpretation, probably very one sided, but a big story that made its way to the schoolbooks. With Boniface it seems as if everything is clear about him – man, he is the national Saint of the Germans! - better not question Boniface! But, do we know how it was? No! It’s a tale created out of certain records, mainly records by Boniface himself. Most of it, is fantasy!

So what do we know! Boniface was a British guy, became something like a lay priest who at one point went to Rome, and though, it would be nice do something important. Pope Gregory II gave him his name and made im a Bishop (without a diocese). And what can be greater than serving the Roman pope and fighting evil? So he went on a mission to bring the catholic world order (the only proper one) to the so called heathens, to the (in his eyes) uncivilized wild part of Europe north of the roman-influenced countryside. And he didn’t come alone. He came with support up from Rome, he had something that today would be a equivalent to a “James Bond” Certificate (“license to kill”) to do whatever he needed to do in whatever manner he thought best to reach his aims. Everything he did was regarded as beeing good, because god, or at least gods rightful earthly representative, the pope, was on his side. Well, that’s great, isn’t it?

So what he did is to move around and mass-christen people. He then sent amazing lists with amazing numbers of his success-rates to Rome. And that was worth the effort, the pope was pleased. He founded churches (congregations) and turned wild people into nice guys who would attend mass and pray to the right god. So he moved around mainly in “Hessen” (Mid-Germany) but also to the North of Germany (Friesland), Holland, to Bavaria etc.

If this note of mine gives you the impression I would not respect Boniface, you might have a good sense of the undertones in this text, but I do honor his will-force. He moved around (mainly on foot) a lot! He was serious about it, totally dedicated to his mission and went for it. That’s great. I respect that. But that’s about all that I think is great about him.


Because he was a liar. All of his great deeds are faked. It was a con. And by the way, his christenings were an act of evil. Why? Because he forced people into it! He was not nice to the folk he met, he suppressed them, and he faked the records.

So, now you’re asking why does this clever Renatus say that? Does he know more than generations of honored historians? Who is he to say, that what is in our history books, is false? Hello!

My investigations into western and central European history of the 5th to the 8th century just gave me a very different picture. And there are great books about it to support “my” alternative view on the “dark” age. They just never made it into mainstream university lectures or contemporary books, thy are in fact quite old – most of them. They seem to play no role in changing the majority’s option about this historic time and the figure of Boniface.

The following is fact:

When Christianity became (Roman) state religion in 388 it got mangled up with all sorts of interests (which primarily have nothing to do with Christianity or religion). It then became trapped in an evil relationship with power. To secure the influence and dominance of the newly arising roman, popian “state”, bishops where installed in all mayor cities. A bishop title could be bought! Often the rulers and leaders of these places became the bishops, which often didn’t mean more than securing ones power over people and land within the hierarchical order of the late Roman time. If faith was involved at all, it still was a prestigious title used for having a good life. The majority of people of that time did not live in cities. Actually very few people lived or where connected to a Christian center and had never heard about it.

Another fact is, that (roughly) from 4th to 8th century a Christian church existed that was independent from Rome called the Irish or Celtic Church. It started in Ireland, but was wide spread in all former Celtic territories of Britain. One if its centers was Iona, the tiny island next to Mull, 6 mils from where I’m writing this text.

This church was very different in structure. Oh, I’m sorry- I wrote so many articles about this subject, I’m tired to go into this again. And anyway, it would need too many words to describe it.

You might get it by imagining Iona not being “the” center. No power or worldly influence spread from there. Rather regard it as “a” center, a spiritual one, which inspired people, where people where taught and educated and where people were drawn to for its life changing, and holy atmosphere.

Lets just say, the Celtic Church was special, because the iro-scotish monks on their mission to Europe did connect with the local folks (the majority of people who were living in rural places) and touched their hearts. They converted them in a peaceful, non-violent way. Unlike Boniface who was hated and fought, the iro-scots where loved, welcomed, respected.

An amazingly high number (I’d love to find out more about how high it really was) of monks went from the West of Europe eastwards and connected with tribes and villages in Europe and founded a great number of parish-churches, chapels, monasteries.

I find it fascinating that most of this is regionally known somehow (for individual places), but this does no really appear in history books and no overview seems to exist about that.

So in Hessen, I went to find some of theses places.

The trick I used is, to go everywhere, where Boniface went. He was so accurate about his missionary glory, that he wrote about it in all detail. His letters to the pope (and other writings and documents) tell us where we went and what he (through his eyes) did there. So I knew were to go… following the footsteps of Boniface… but not because of him, but thanks to him, to “my” iro-scotish foundations from the time before Boniface… Hmmm?

Boniface was a fraud. He did not christen one heathen. He just re-christened the prior to him christened people who where in contact with one of the many Celtic monk, who where roaming the land 50 to 100 years earlier. Boniface christened in a catholic manner the Celtic Christians he found. He could do that because he (and Rome at that time) did not regard the Irish/Celtic Church as Christian. They were heretics in their eyes.

What did I find?

An example, “Wüstung Hausen”:

This is a iro-scotish founding. Now a ruin. Clearly Iro-scotish, a rectangular building (so no abse), which was typical for them. The Christian Celts did not like to separate the priest and the holy room from the people and the room people where in. The holy was to be found in the profane. God, they though, was among them and Christ between them. No separation needed.

Unlike Rome, who stressed on the need of someone telling ordinary people what is right and what is wrong, creating a schism between the holy and the ordinary.

The “Wüstung Hausen” ruin is dated to early 8th century. That’s just a bit before Boniface came along!

Oh my god, what shall we do? You still think I’m crazy? - that I think I’m clever and that I’m a better historian than historians?

Well, I just take facts seriously. Next to “Wüstung Hausen” 6 other iro-scotish places are mentioned in a document of “Beatus” an iro-scotish Abbot from Honau (near Strasbourg, which was a centre of the celtic church back then) who donated those places (parish churches, monasteries, congregations) to the main monastery in Honau. And lets see what Boniface did… He went to those places, claimed them as heathen places, not know to the church before he came there, "founded" a church there and christened the people. Often he just rebuilt the already existing churches or pulled the often just wooden structures down and made it built again in stone with his (Roman) ideas about it.

This story is so ridiculous, I find it hard to take it serious.

So I went to see theses places and I was surprised: Most of them are very classic “Celtic” sites. What I know about Iona and Staffa (and other sites), I found again there as their signature. Lovely mild landscapes (Iona) and somewhere close by: wild basalt rocks (Staffa).

Another example, Amöneburg:

This was certainly always a secret site. Set in a beautiful, agriculturally rich valley, a volcanic basalt rock crops out forming an impressive “island”, towing over the fertile land. Picturesque basalt columns can be seen at one side of the rock formation. Beautiful views to all directions from the plateau are possible. At the highest point a church is built on the site where most likely earlier church buildings once where erected and also quite likely ancient cult places existed.

A bit west down into the valley, where the steep hill slopes changes into flatter slopes, a mild, calm, harmonious land begins. Here is a well, where Boniface (so the legend) christened the pious folk. Next to it is a chapel who, just from looking at the place, obviously could be a site of an earlier- pre Boniface Irish site.

Another example, Büraberg:

In Büraburg the historians did a great job. It’s a hilltop overlooking the Weser valley, predestined for a Celtic holy site. Now there is a church, associated to Boniface (you can see Fritzlar from here!). Interestingly enough it is dedicated to St. Bride – the Celtic goddess and early iro-scotish saint who lived on Iona (so her legend). The present church has been archeologically investigated. Some stones in the foundation of the church are clearly 7th century- i.e. the iro-scots where here before Boniface came along.

Show down: Fritzlar:

Then, Fritzlar. I felt uneasy going there. I had to push myself, tell myself that I’m overreacting. I felt like going into the devils womb. Was that irrational? To me Frizlar is a symbol. In my mind it represents the violence and brutality, the ignorance and cruelty of how Roman Christianity was implanted into this part of the world (and like model from there on for how it was done in almost all other parts of the worldlater on - think about south America after Columbus or any other place). Fritzlar is supposedly the place where the “Donar Eiche” (Donar`s Oak), the ancient holy tree dedicated to the highest of gods Donar (like Zeus) in one of the larger and most important gathering places for the pre-Christian people. A place for annual festivals and meetings – religious and political. Boniface took an axe and felled the tree, symbolically killed the god, demonstrated that it did not have any power and that he – as a representative of Christ (what a irony, what kind of Christ is that?) – did not get struck by a flash of lightning but lived. He clearly was the stronger guy. Boniface wanted to root out all heathen traditions. Roman Christianity is a system of destructive might forced from outside onto people which where struck by fear. Celtic Christianity is such of an inner believe, a light shining from within. The Iro-Scotish mission was different, they tried to integrate and transform the old so that the new creed is not alien, but can be experienced and felt as something familiar. Celtic Christianity is one of inner connection. Roman Catholic religion is (and Boniface an icon for it) an outer force. We still have this today as a struggle between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We now by now that only intrinsic values are sustainable and satisfactory.

Going to Fritzlar was like meeting my Doppelgänger or shadows. It took some courage to go there. I stood in front of that huge bronze figure glorifying this asshole with the old tree chopped down installing a cruel church out of this wood. And I screamed a silent painful scream. So much pain. So much lack of understanding, no empathy and goodwill with other values, towards a different approach: one where nature can be regarded as holy, where Christ could be found in nature. For Rome (Boniface) nature was sin- and such it stayed until this day.

I can’t help it, to be relieved, that the influence of this church is dying out in our days (or that pope Francis seems to be a bit different). Indeed I hope nothing stays of it. That something new can arise. And – at least for me – the Celtic Church could be a inspiration of that new (but not a repetition, its not that the historic Celtic Christianity should be re-installed, but its approach still has something to tell us today that we could take up or gain inspiration from).

It was good go to Fritzlar, to meet Boniface that way. I just don’t have any words or understanding of such a blind mission against others human beings and against nature. As if Boniface would try to force himself and his hierarchical power driven lunacy onto me, I still feel this ignorance today in so many other places, in social life, in power structures, in our way of academic “reputation is everything” science, our worldviews (“survival of the fittest”). Where is the quality of perception and recognition of observing and mutual understanding? I’m so tired of ego driven madness- though I know I’m not free from it. Looking at our world I hardly see any Celtic way around. Well, at least not right now in the aftermath of this journey. But I might not see clearly, my eyes are still wet from tears.

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