Christianity in Europe

Essential Question

How did Christianity spread in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire?

Christianity in Europe

Europe was a dangerous place during Rome’s long collapse. Without the Roman government, Europe had no central authority to keep order. Various groups from the north and east moved into former Roman lands, creating their own states and making their own kings. These kings often fought among themselves. As a result, by the early 500s Europe was divided into many small kingdoms. This marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, or medieval period. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, most of the kingdoms of northern Europe were not Christian. Christianity was common only in places that had been part of the Roman Empire, such as Italy and Spain. As time passed, Christianity slowly spread farther north, largely through the efforts of two groups of Christians—monks and missionaries. The pope sent missionaries to northern Europe, hoping that Christianity would make Europe a safer place. Missionaries converted much of Germany, France, and Britain. Communities of monks, or monasteries, were built all over Europe in the Middle Ages. Most monks followed a strict set of rules created in the early 500s by Saint Benedict.

In the 500s a powerful group called the Franks conquered Gaul, the region we now call France. Under a ruler named Clovis, the Franks became Christian and created one of the strongest kingdoms in Europe. The Franks reached their greatest power during the 700s under Charlemagne (SHAHR-luh-mayn). At its height Charlemagne’s empire reached from France into modern Germany, Austria, Italy, and northern Spain. Religious scholarship flourished in Charlemagne’s time.

Christianity Spreads to Northern Europe & The Franks Build an Empire.pdf

Discussion Questions

  • How did St. Benedict aim to ensure that his monks avoided greed and corruption? Why?

  • How and where did missionaries spread Christianity?

  • What is St. Patrick famous for?

  • What are monasteries and what kind of work did monks and nuns preform?

  • What was Charlemagne famous for?

  • How has the work of missionaries in medieval Europe influenced our world today?

Activity 1: What were the causes of the spread of Christianity in Europe?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities