The victory of the Catholic Church over Arianism

One of the features which marked the earlier portions of these centuries was the disappearance of Arian Christianity and the bringing into the Catholic Church of those who had professed it. Arianism had been the form of Christianity which had won a large proportion of the Germanic peoples who had settled in the Roman Empire. This was true of most of the Goths, including the Ostrogoths who ruled in much of Italy and the Visigoths who were dominant in Spain. In so far as they were Christians, the majority of the Lombards who followed the Ostrogoths as masters of much of Italy were Arians. Many of the Burgundians were of that faith. So were a large proportion of the Vandals who controlled North Africa. The Arians regarded themselves as the true Christians and their churches as the Catholic Church. However, the overwhelming majority of the Latinized Roman provincials over whom the invaders ruled were loyal to Nicsa. It was to be expected that the invaders, a minority, although the ruling minority, and of more nearly "primitive" culture, would eventually conform to the language, manners, and customs of the majority. As they did so, quite understandably they accepted Nicene Catholic Christianity.

By the end of the seventh century most of the Arian Lombards had become Catholics. In Spain the transition was earlier. Recared, the Visigothic king, near the end of the sixth century apparently decided that his realm must have one religion and that that had best be the faith of the majority. Accordingly, at a synod at Toledo he formally became a Catholic and was quickly followed by a number of Arian bishops and nobles. In Gaul the Arians among the Burgundians were beginning to turn Catholic before the end of the sixth century. The fact that Clovis, the ruler of the people who became dominant in Gaul, accepted the Nicene rather than the Arian form of the faith, was decisive in the victory of the Catholic Church in that area. The Goths who had ruled in the south of Gaul were conquered by the Franks and that meant the elimination of their Arianism. The reconquest of North Africa by the Romans under Justinian in the first half of the sixth century made for the triumph of the Catholic Church in that region.

The disappearance of Arianism facilitated the religious and cultural unity in Western Europe. Had the Arians prevailed or even persisted as a strong factor with their national churches and lack of any generally acknowledged centre of orthodoxy and administration such as the Catholics possessed in Rome, that all pervasive cohesion which the Catholic Church gave to an otherwise divided Europe might not have been achieved.

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