martes, 1 de marzo de 2011

The Christianisation of England

Christianity brought a huge vocabulary to England. The process started at the end of the 6th c. (Latin words came from the year 597 AD, when the Christianization process started). The impact is reported in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, finished in 731. Here he talks about the linguistic collision between English and Latin, and the spread of Christianity. According to the tradition, this mission was inspired by a man who would become Pope, Gregory the Great. He had the idea of Christianising England. He intended to lead an expedition himself, but later he wanted somebody to go for him. Saint Augustine stayed there with 50 monks at a suicidal mission (very risky). They had to face the English, who resisted. 51 of them landed in Kent. It was a little Kingdom with a small Christian community.  How come they were a small community? : King Ǽthelbert, King of Kent married princess Bertha, who was Franc and also Christian. She was given as a wife with the condition that he respected her catholic faith. The king set up a small chapel near his palace at Kentwarabyrig (today Canterbury). Berta and her court could continue with Christian services. The priest that accompanied Berta has his dependence.  Ǽthelbert  stopped to being a pagan and become to Christianity and many of his subdits become to Christianity also. By the time of 7 years later, in 604 the kingdom of Kent was already Christian.
            The Christianisation process was gradual and peaceful. The mission started in the south and a charismatic preacher from Ireland, Aidan, founded in 635 the Celtic Church. He started the conversion of the north of England. Within 100 years of the landing of St. Augustine in Kent, all England was Christian.
With the coming of Christianism also came the building of monasteries, the cornerstones of Anglo-Saxon culture. They provided education in many subjects. Bede studied in Jarrow, and he wrote the chronicles that remained until today. Arithmetics, music or astronomy were taught. The new monasteries wrote in English.
English benefited in a very large extent. The importance of this cultural and social revolution made English expands with new words from Latin. More of 400 of those Latin words survive today. But it was enriched and powered with new words. Christianity gave English the capacity to express subtle ideas and more abstract thoughts. At this time, words from Latin and Greek were introduced, such as angel, psalm, disciple, pope, psalter, shrine, relic, etc.

These words allowed to express more complex things. Christianity affected English mainly in 3 ways:

  1. It gave English a large church vocabulary.
  2. It also introduced ideas from far away countries, like India or China. It also stimulates the Anglo-Saxons to apply existing words to new concepts. Words like preost, biscop, mumuc, psalter, or Sabbath were introduced.

  1. English reinvented itself, giving old words new meanings: In other words: they gave a new meaning to words introduced by Latin, Hebrew and Greek.

Latin                                 Old English                             English

Spiritus sanctus  >             halig gast  >                             holy ghost
Evangelium (=good news) >göd spell  >                             gospell
enemy                               feond >                                   devil (in this context)
                                         Doomsday                              Judgement Day

The Latin influence in the period was extensive in number and marks the English habit of borrowing terms for a foreigner language. There were more flexibility and two ways of speaking: using Germanic or Latin words.
By the end of 8th c, the impact of Christianity made evolve culture and literature. These were the best days in AS culture. From these days we find the best illuminated manuscripts.
By the 8th, 9th the English faced the second great influence on the development of the English language: the coming of the Vikings.

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