Historia Ecdesiastica Gentis Anglorum

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Pope Gregory’s Letter on Converting the Heathen


"We have been much concerned . . . because we have received no account of the success of your journey. When, therefore, Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what, upon mature deliberation on the affair of the English, I have determined upon. I think that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, and let altars be erected and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils2 to the service of the true God; that the people, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and, knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.

And because the natives have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some festival must be exchanged for them on this account. On the day of the dedication or the birthdays of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts, of the boughs of trees, about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the festival with religious feasting, and no more offer beasts to the devils, but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating. Let them return thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance, to the end that, while some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God. There is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavors to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps. . . ."

1 Bede, , i, 30.

2 Meaning the heathen deities.

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Chicago: Historia Ecdesiastica Gentis Anglorum in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 305. Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4E1SJKYYA7L56D.

MLA: . Historia Ecdesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Vol. i, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, page 305. Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4E1SJKYYA7L56D.

Harvard: , Historia Ecdesiastica Gentis Anglorum. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.305. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4E1SJKYYA7L56D.