English Christianity in the Middle Ages

Conquered and conquerors

In the Middle Ages religion was a major factor uniting people in England. The people who conquered England embraced the Christian religion as a result of settling in the country. The Anglo-Saxons had become Christian when they settled, and by the time the Vikings started raiding the country, there were renowned centres of the faith, like Lindisfarne where the famous gospel manuscript was produced. The Vikings raided the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 and this began the Viking attacks on England.

As a result of the conflict between the Danes and the Saxons under Alfred, the Danish leader Guthrum became a Christian. The Danes in England then began to follow the Christian religion.

When Emma of Normandy migrated to England in 1002 to become the wife of England’s King Ethelred, she began a 50 year period of French Norman influence on England. Her Christian faith was important to her, and she was heavily involved in building up English churches, particularly the one at Winchester which she used as her base. Her son Edward followed in this path when he became king in 1042, and he became known as ‘the Confessor’ because of his faith. Then her great-nephew Duke William of Normandy invaded and conquered England in 1066.

William was also dedicated to the Christian faith and he built up the Church with the appointment of Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070. Lanfranc was an Italian-born monk who migrated to Normandy and then to England. He worked at removing corruption from the English Church, and also brought England in line with European churches.