ADVERTISING
 
Thursday, February 22   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Is the sexual exploitation of women an issue in your city?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Jeff Fountain
 

From barrier to highway

The two great European rivers, the Rhine and the Danube, have been a natural barrier across the continent through the centuries from the Black Sea to the North Sea.

WINDOW ON EUROPE AUTHOR Jeff Fountain 29 SEPTEMBER 2017 11:00 h GMT+1

The two great European rivers, the Rhine and the Danube, have been a natural barrier across the continent through the centuries from the Black Sea to the North Sea.



They formed the north-eastern frontier of the Roman empire, safeguarding ‘civilisation’ from ‘barbarism’, until its disintegration early in the fifth century.



As guests of a group of Kiwi travellers, my wife and I enjoyed a ‘trip of a lifetime’ from Amsterdam to Budapest, down the Rhine and the Danube. The right bank, seen from our river cruiser, was under ‘civilised’ Roman rule; the left bank was ‘wild’ barbarian territory. At all costs, ‘they’ had to be kept out.



A line of frontier fortifications called the Limes Germanicus (Germanic frontier), with at least 60 forts and 900 watchtowers, stretched almost 600 kilometres from the North Sea outlet of the Rhine in Holland to near Regensburg on the Danube. The limes continued eastward along the Danube to the Black Sea under various names: Limes Norici, Limes Pannonicus, Limes Transalutanus and Limes Moesiae.



Then on New Year’s Eve, 406, things began to change. Somehow–some say the river must have been frozen–a mixed group of barbarians poured across the Rhine near Mainz and celebrated the new year with a rampage of destruction leading to the collapse of Roman order in northern Gaul. The Rhine crossing became a signal for further migration of various germanic tribes westward and southward.



 



DISTURBING



Jerome, the early church father, had just finished his Latin translation of the Bible (The Vulgate) in Bethlehem when he heard the disturbing news of this barbarian invasion. His letter recounting the events listed the tribes involved (including Vandals, Saxons, Burgundians, Alemanni and more) and the pillaged cities (Mainz, Worms, Rheims, Amiens, Strasbourg….). He could see the beginning of the end of the empire.



Yet it was also the beginning of the conversion of the invading tribes and the next stage in the making of Europe. Over the next four centuries, the Irish, who in Jerome’s day had not yet even heard the gospel, pioneered the evangelisation of this part of Europe. Wave after wave of monks established monastery after monastery, the building blocks of the emerging order. They became known as ‘teachers of nations and disciplers of kings’. After the Celts came the Benedictines, many of whose monasteries are still to be seen along this watery-highway.



The Rhine thus ceased being a border and became the main artery first of the Kingdom of the Franks, then of the so-called Holy Roman Empire. What used to be a fortified defensive barrier was now seen as a means of communication, transport and cooperation. The spread of Christianity along this route is amply evident for river tourists in the profusion of churches–Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque–standing as silent witnesses along both banks. Jerome probably never imagined his name would one day be revered among these formerly barbaric peoples.



 



CONNECTING



Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, dreamed of connecting the Rhine and the Danube by canal, and thus linking the North Sea and the Black Sea. That dream would take over a thousand years to be realised. Even then, the Ludwig-Donau-Canal, completed in 1846, was narrow, had many locks and proved uneconomic. Damaged during World War II, it was finally abandoned in 1950.



Our river-cruiser has just negotiated the much larger Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, completed only in 1992. An amazing water-stairway with some 16 locks, some 25 metres high, lifts the boat 170 metres above starting level, before dropping again to the level of the Danube. Since the completion of this canal and the end of the Balkan wars, eleven nations from Romania to the Netherlands have been linked via a 3000km waterway, another reminder of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the European peoples.



On this trip, the words of atheist Richard Dawkins have often come to my mind: ‘you cannot understand Europe without understanding Christianity and the Bible’. Stopovers in Cologne, Würzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Melk and Vienna among others have exposed us to layer upon layer of Christian history which laid a common foundation for the European peoples.



Not that the story is all positive however. Reminders of the dark chapters of church history have been plentiful on this trip: the Crusades, persecution of Jews and religious wars. The hypocrisy and greed of many church leaders have understandably provoked disdain in the comments of our guides.



History has never been neat and tidy. Hypocrisy and greed lurk in each of our hearts. But the same gospel that transformed a defensive border into a communications highway can surely continue to shape history in ways that, like Jerome, we have never imagined.



Jeff Fountain is Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies, and speaks on issues facing Christians today in Europe. He writes at Weekly Word.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - From barrier to highway
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
A marriage story A marriage story

The  great love story for everyone.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.