The Story of Europe with Historian Dr Christopher Clark. Beliefs and Ideas. “Europe has seen Christianity as central to its Western identity. While true, many beliefs and ideas shaping Europe, including Christianity, originate in the Middle East. Long before the birth of Jesus, Judaism spreads across the Roman empire; Muslim Moors dominate the Iberian Peninsula.”
Clark opens this episode in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Istanbul was built on the intersection of two continents, Europe and Asia. For centuries, it was the spiritual home of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In the 1453, it became the capital of the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire, which spread Islam into various parts of Europe.
Christianity united Europe, beginning with the travels of Saint Paul, who envisioned a global church. In the year 306 Constantine the Great was crowned Roman emperor in York, England, and later made Christianity the religion of the empire. After winning the Battle of Milvian Bridge (over the Tiber) against competing emperors, Constantine ended the Tetrarchy and became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. He attributed his success to the will of the Christian God.
In the year 324, Constantine left Rome, moving his seat of power east and establishing Constantinople as the heart of Christianity. What if the Walls of Constantinople Were Breached Badly?
Rome declined and fell, but Roman Christianity survived, spreading all the way to Ireland, where Saint Patrick converted the island in the 400s. This was where the nature-worshiping Celts merged with Roman Catholicism. as exemplified by the Book of Kells. ‘Book of Kells: Medieval Europe’s Greatest Treasure?’
Monks inspired by Patrick began the tradition of the pilgrimage, setting out to convert their neighbors on the European continent. But they also tore down pagan temples in Europe.
Christian conversions led to the melding of Roman and Germanic elements on the European continent. Clovis I, born in what is now Belgium in 465, united the Frankish and Gaulish (Celtic) tribes and became king of the Franks. He is regarded at the founder of the French nation. He converted to Christianity in 496, and was baptized at an abbey in Reims in 508.
Saint Columba was born in Ireland in 521, and converted Scotland, dying in Iona in 597. St. Columba Brought Christianity to Scotland in the Sixth Century, and Still ‘Lives’ on the Isle of Iona.
Gallus or Saint Gall was born in Ireland in 550 and converted Switzerland to Christianity.
In the eighth century, Charlemagne used Christianity to unite more tribes of Europe, forcing many to convert to Christianity. He is considered the father of Europe today. His capital, Aachen, is considered the Rome of the North. He was crowned emperor by the pope.
Around the same time, Muslim Moors were crossing over from North Africa and conquering southern Spain, reaching as far north as Tours, France. A seminal battle there in 732, led by Charles Martel, caused the Muslim Moors to retreat back to Spain. France Could Have Turned Muslim in 732.
Clark points out that Islam has been an important part of European history. Europe definitely benefited from Muslim rule over the Iberian Peninsula.
The Moors were pushed back into Africa by the Christian reconquest beginning in 1492. This was the first holy and hostile crusade against religious tolerance and respect for diversity. Pope Urban II launched the Crusades. Jews were targeted as the enemies of Christ and of Europe.
Just a few decades earlier, in 1453, the seat of eastern orthodox Christianity in Constantinople was toppled and replaced by the Ottoman Muslims. Byzantium: Greco-Roman Eastern Empire for 1100 Years, Was Lost 560 Years Ago, But Traces Remain
With the fall of Constantinople, the heart of Eastern Orthodox Christianity shifts to Moscow, hailed by some as the “third Rome,” with czars acting as caesars and defenders of the faith.
Broadcasting from Kiev, Ukraine — a country divided by Roman Catholics in the west and Russian Orthodox in the East, Clark asks “is Christianity a unifying bond, or a divisive force?”
In Western Europe in the 14th century, there are two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon in Southern France.
This division within Christianity leads to further divisions, beginning in Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic, another cleric by the name of Jan Hus (1369-1415) demanded reforms in the church. He was burned at the stake for heresy. But dissent could not be suppressed forever. A century later, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation. If Printing Press Was Invented 100 Years Sooner, Would It Have Sparked Protestant Reformation, Age of Enlightenment Sooner?