The Slavic Religion in the Light of 11th- and 12th-Century German Chronicles (Thietmar of Merseburg, Adam of Bremen, Helmold of Bosau)

Studies on the Christian Interpretation of pre-Christian Cults and Beliefs in the Middle Ages


In this volume, Stanisław Rosik focuses on the meaning and significance of Old Slavic religion as presented in three German chronicles (the works of Thietmar of Merseburg, Adam of Bremen, Helmold of Bosau) written during the time of the Christianization of the Western Slavs. The source analyses show the ways the chroniclers understood, explained and represented pre-Christian beliefs and cults, which were interpreted as elements of a foreign, “barbarian”, culture and were evaluated from the perspective of Church doctrine. In this study, individual features of the three authors are discussed– including the issue of the credibility of their information on Old Slavic religion– and broader conclusions on medieval thought are also presented.

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Stanisław Rosik, Ph.D. (1998), Prof. Dr. habil., historian, medievalist, University of Wrocław, Institute of History, head of the Laboratory of Research on Early History of Central Europe; since 2017 president of the Standing Committee of Polish Medievalists; author of over 250 publications, including several books, e.g. Bolesław Krzywousty (Chronicon, 2013).
Interpretatio Christiana of Old Slavic Religion as a
Problem in Scholarly Reflection
I. Interpretatio Christiana of Slavic religion in scholarly opinions
1. Aleksander Brückner
2. Erwin von Wienecke
3. Stanisław Urbańczyk
4. Henryk Łowmiański
5. Leszek Moszyński
6. On interpretatio Christiana: discussion addendum and summary
6.1. Christian interpretation versus the credibility of sources on Slavic religion
6.2. Interpretatio Christiana: the essence of the phenomenon and its constituent procedures
II. Further research perspectives (postulates)
The religion of the Old Slavs in Thietmar’s Chronicle
I. Introduction: Thietmar of Merseburg and his work
Excursus: Saturn at the Wagrians (Widukind of Corvey, Res gestae Saxonice libri tres III, 68)
II. The religion of the Slavs in Thietmar’s chronicle – historiographical analysis
1. The Glomače holy spring
2. On afterlife
3. Slavic religiousness in view of Bishop Boso’s mission
4. Uprising of the Polabian Slavs (983)
5. The regnum ablatu war between Mieszko I and Boleslav the Pious
6. Radogošč
6.1. Urbs tricornis, silva et mare – location of the phanum
6.2. Dii manu facti
6.3. Svarožic – deorum primus
6.4. Ministri
6.5. The oracle, divinations and auguries
6.6. Principalis monarchia
6.7. Oath of peace
6.8. Echo of the 983 rebellion
7. Wigbert and Zutibure
8. The third war between Henry II and Boleslav the Brave: Ślęża mountain and the Liutici goddesses
9. Hennil
10. Reinbern and the religion of Sea-side communities under Boleslav’s the Brave rule
11. On funeral customs of the Slavs
12. The Obodrite pagan reaction (1018)
III. The religion of the Slavs in Thietmar’s chronicle – closing remarks
Adam of Bremen on Slavic religion
I. Introduction: Adam of Bremen and his work
II. The religion of the Slavs in Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum – historiographical analysis
1. Rethra
2. Iumne
3. The revolt during the pontificate of Libentius
4. Gottschalks’ times and the Slavic rebellion of 1066
5. Rügen
III. The religion of the Slavs in the historical and theological vision of Adam of Bremen
Helmoldi Cronica Slavorum on Slavic religion
I. Helmold and his Chronicle of the Slavs
II. The religion of the Slavs in Helmold’s chronicle (text analysis)
1. Slavdom on the threshold of the oeuvre
2. The first wave of Christianization
2.1. Charlemagne, Anskar and the Slavs
2.2. The Rugians, Svantevit and the Legend of Corvey
3. The second revolution of the wheel of history
4. From Gottschalk time success to the 1066 rebellion
5. The fourth high and low tide of Christianization
6. The last ascent and fall of the Polabian mission
7. Towards lasting success of the missionary action
7.1. Vicelin and Prove’s cult in Starigrad
7.2. Count Adolf II and the struggle with idolatry
7.3. Helmold on a journey with Gerold – a treasury of knowledge on Polabian religion
8. Epilogue: the final tackling of the Rans and their cult
III. The Slavic religion in the “world” of Helmold’s
All interested in Slavic culture and religion, medievalists, historians of religions, Church historians, historians of literature (historiography), philologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, theologians.