chapter  13
The Conversion of a Pagan Society in the Middle Ages*
ByRobert Bartlett
Pages 17

The three Lives, together with references in other chronicles, biographies and official documents provide sufficient evidence for an attempt to be made to describe and analyse the conversion of a pagan society in the middle Ages. The vested interest most clearly involved with the pagan religion was the pagan priesthood. No evidence survives of the endowment of pagan temples or the pagan priesthood, although the existence of such endowment is highly plausible, but there is explicit evidence both for the wealth of the temples and for large revenues from offerings and tithes. The missionaries thus aimed at a sharp break. They savoured the radical desacralisation involved in distributing the timber from pagan temples as firewood, in spitting on the gods. A Christian establishment successfully inserted itself into the position previously held by the pagan priesthood: 'the churches of the Christians now appropriated the sacrifices which used to be offered to the priests and temples of the idols'.