64. Internationales Sachsensymposion

Invitation to Paderborn

Dying Gods –
Traditional beliefs in northern and eastern Europe in the time of Christianisation

In 2013 the exhibition The Christianisation of Europe in the Middle Ages will be shown in three different venues in Paderborn. It will span many centuries and cover many countries so that the exhibits can illustrate phenomena that were distinct in particular periods and specific to different regions during the long processes of Christianisation. One focus of the exhibition will be on typical features that characterised the transition from the traditional religions to Christianity. Large parts of the exhibition will concentrate on the Christianisation of the North and the East of Europe.

When discussing the transition from the pre-Christian to the Christian period the definition of traditional religious ideas itself is the topic of many debates. To even attempt a description of the internal political and social structures of pre-Christian societies is fraught with difficulties. When describing phenomena that can be observed the vocabulary, we use lacks clarity, partly because there are few written sources by the pagans themselves, partly because the accounts by the missionaries of the ‘others’ show their cultural bias.

The Sachsensymposion in Paderborn will explore what we can actually know about pre-Christian religions when most of the sources were written from a Christian perspective, often a long time after the events. Many societies in the North and East of Europe had been in more or less close contact with the late Roman Christian South well before missionaries arrived and their conversion to the Christian religion began. Pagan beliefs appear not to have been fixed but shifting over time, not least under the influence of the expanding Christian religion. A good starting point for the discussion of these questions, are the archaeologically well-researched long-distance contacts and networks of the local elites.

Cultural transfers between the Christian and the pagan worlds came about through the work of mis-sionaries, preachers and their interpreters, but also through intermarriage, travelling royal courts, craftsmen and merchants. These exchanges can be traced not only in artistic motifs but also in vernacular literature. More recent research has shown how broad the impact was in all areas of culture and art although the reception was quite independent.

The topic ‘traditional religions’ – even its precise definition – opens up an array of questions and dis-cussions. The theme of the 2013 Paderborn Sachsensymposion picks up these debates with its title ‘Dying gods – Traditional beliefs in northern and eastern Europe in the time of Christianisation’. We invite the members of the Sachsensymposion to advance the discussions about the definition and characterisation of pre-Christian religious ideas of the early medieval peoples.

During the Symposion one session will take place inside the exhibition to give the participants the opportunity to discuss in front of objects that may contribute to our understanding of the transition from the Pagan to the Christian religion.

As always there will be a session for the presentation and discussion of new finds and projects. Proposals for posters are also welcome.

The International Sachsensymposium 2013 will be hosted jointly by the “Altertumskommission für Westfalen“  and the “Ausstellungsgesellschaft Paderborn“.

Call for papers as well as registration form will be send in spring next year.

Dr. Christiane Ruhmann, Diözesanmuseum Paderborn,
D 33098 Paderborn Germany
+49 (0)5251 125-1552