Monday, June 05, 2006

Saint and destruction of pagan sacred sites

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

Feast day of St Boniface of Crediton, Apostle of Germany

Destruction of sacred sites

Boniface is remembered for destroying idols and pagan temples, and building Christian churches on the sites. 'Thor's Oak' was an ancient tree near Fritzlar in northern Hesse (Germany) and one of the most sacred of sites of the old Germans. In 722 or 723, St Boniface cut down the tree to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian god over Thor and the other Germanic/Nordic deities, building a chapel from its wood at the site. This event commonly marks the beginning of the Christianization of the non-Frankish Germans. This was at the forest of Geismar, Saxony, near the present-day town of Fritzlar in northern Hesse. (Some sources say that the tree might have been sacred to Odin/Woden.)

The Hessians believed that their god would protect the tree, but Boniface was quite resolved to cut it down. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without uttering a word chopped down the two-metre-wide wooden god. The saint defiantly stood on the trunk, and asked, "How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he." As they watched, the Christian fable has it, he took an axe to it and was aided by a huge gust of wind. The crowd's reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun. What actually occurred we shall probably never know, but it seems that in the face of superior strength, the Hessians submitted to Christian authority ...

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