The general course of Christianity in Western Europe

For a time the quality of Christian living declined and the very existence of Christianity was threatened. The danger was not the immediate disappearance of a formal profession of that religion. Indeed, as we are to see, the majority of the pagan invaders were fairly quickly brought to an outward adoption of Christianity and the faith was even carried beyond what, in the year 500, had been its northern borders. The peril, rather, was the progressive denaturing of what bore the Christian name by secularization and corruption of many kinds. The decline was not sudden nor was it continuous. Numerous attempts were made to stem the trend, many individuals and groups were bright gleams in the night, and here and there partial recovery was effected. Yet by the middle of the tenth century Christianity in Western Europe was at a lower ebb than it was ever again to be.

As we attempt to picture a scene which has many details and which is very confusing, we can best do it by broad strokes, bringing out some of the main features and sketching in several of the more prominent individuals who figured in it.

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