Law and mission

Research Project

In the European Middle Ages, Christian mission took place in the context of very different legal systems. The close connection between Christianity and Roman law from the fourth century onwards represents perhaps the most successful symbiosis of religious and secular/profane normative orders. In the Western part of the Roman Empire, which soon gained eschatological connotations, the Trinitarian (‘Roman Catholic’) form of Christianity prevailed also in those barbarian kingdoms that had initially adhered to the teachings of Arius and Origen (Arians as well as the more moderate homoiousians and homoians). Some of these kingdoms’ leges, called ‘barbarian’ because of their non-Roman origins, also contained special norms applicable only to Gallo-Romans or Hispano-Romans living in their territories. After being crowned emperor, Charlemagne issued three more leges for the inhabitants of areas recently incorporated into the Frankish Empire. Integration into a new and Christian order did therefore not automatically result in the disappearance of previous normative regimes.

The research project examines these interactions between law and mission in medieval Europe, building in part on work done in the context of the Institute’s former Research Focus on Legal Spaces. A particular focus lies on the combination of archaeological and written source material. Insights from the project will be shared and discussed with other researchers at the Institute working on law and mission in the context of the early modern colonial expansion of the Iberian worlds.

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