Saxon men which were mercenaries in the Roman army where they sometimes acquired high positions, have ondoubtedly passed on information to the people of their homeland. Especially when christianity got a monopolyposition at the end of the fourth century. Long sincethe first century the Germanic warriors served in the Roman army, which caused a great pull towards (young) men.
“It’s not unthinkable that almost every bigger settlement in the North-East past of the Netherlands during the Late-roman period had a son serving in the Roman army”
After the Roman Period the saxons also had contacts with the Frankish Empire, which had been christianized since the end of the sixth century – mainly thru the agency of the Irish monk Columbanus. In the Frankonian armies there also were Saxon mercenaries in service. In the south-west border regions of Old Saxony lived a mixed Saxon-Frankish population.
By the campaigns and punitive expeditions of the Franks in this part of Old Saxony / Saksenland, which begun at the beginning of the eight century, christianity became more and more the religion of the enemy.
The first christianisation of Britain already took place before the year 410, the year in which the Romans started with the retreat of their troops and governance to the mainland. They left a mainly christianized population. The Frisians, Saxons and Angles, which invaded Britain right after the Romans left and occupied the largest part – brought back the Germanic religion to the nation.
The second definate christianization of Britain began then on two fronts. From the west Irish monks came into the nation, and in the year 596 abbot Augustinus from Rome in command of pope Gregorius the Great his missionary work on the south-coast, in Kent.
The Irish monks started traveling because of the so called peregrinatio which also was connected to a form of punishment in the Old Irish right. That right had two forms of banishment: Banished from the tribe, and banished off the island. The monks chose voluntarily for a banishment to very remote islands and areas. They also started monasteries – Lindisfarne / Holy Island is the most important.
Christianization from the south by abbot Augustinus happened “from the top down” – When the preachers had won the ruler/king for their cause, his nationals would follow, beginning with the nobles, more or less spontaneous.
The Frisian-Land and the Saxon-Land were the lands of their ancestors. They felt related to them, the first one that tried to converd the Frisians was Wilfried the bishop of York in 678. But his preaching completely failed to catch on with the Frisians. Even Willibrord could not bring the Frisians to give up their own old religion. As long Radboud was their king and leader, there was no way that Willibrord and his companions could proof that the god of their enemy – the Franks – was mightier then their own gods.
Also the attempts of christianization of the Saxon people inspired by Willibrord and friends did not get welcomed very friendly. Many missionaries and other bringers of the “new faith” were murdered, tortured or chased away. The two Ewalds are one of the many examples of people that tried to convert and failed – which they paid with their lives.They are an example of many other “church-folk” that tried and failed.
It are mostly the villagers that are very hostile against the outsiders – which means the free and the un-free. The Saxon upperclass / nobles are somehwat milder in tolerating the missionaries. This division of classes in the Saxon people will have quite extreme effects later on in history when here as well the christianization “from top down” will start.
Not only the Anglo-Saxon church makes the mission concerning the Saxons to a main topic, also the Franks wish emphatically for the christianization of the Saxon people – a christianization that would go together with the incorporating Saksenland / Old Saxony with the big Frankish Empire.
That the Saxons were still sovereign until the west-border of their land and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the religion of their potential enemy – the Franks – is shown by burning down the church in “Daventre / Deventer” twice.
More on this subject another time!