• Ben

Thoughts on the End of a Season (Part 1.1) - Arianism

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

So, we’re just about done with the legwork on Episode 25 of Season 1 - aka the season finale – and it got me thinking about what exactly I have learned in the past year of doing the podcast. I’ve decided to share a few of those thoughts, from two different angles. The next three posts are going to focus on the historical items I’ve found the most intriguing; after that, in Part 2, I will look at this question from the podcasting side of the house. With that said, let’s history! (Yep, it’s a verb now….)

Item #1: I never knew how important Arianism was. I mean, this branch of Christianity was big-time, maybe just as big or bigger than Nicene Christianity (aka Catholicism) for a time. The actual difference between the two forms of the religion were fairly minor (to me, at least) and centered around the question of whether or not Jesus was equal to God or was God’s subordinate. Well, what I consider to be minor was considered by folks at this time to be relatively Earth-shattering, and resulted in the all of the chaos that is usually attendant with dogmatic schisms: war, executions, unchecked aggression and violence, even in families.


Above, a few snapshots from the Arian Baptistery in Ravenna, Italy.


A prime example of intra-family violence comes from Episode 19, when Brunhilda (a Catholic convert) sent her daughter Ingunda (Catholic) to marry the Visigothic prince Hermenigild (Arian). Bear in mind, Brunhilda’s mom, Goiswintha (Arian), was the queen of the Visigoths at this time, making Ingunda her blood relative. Despite these close familial ties, however, it only took about five minutes of catching up before Goiswintha let her granddaughter know she expected her to convert to Arianism before marriage; when Ingunda declined, Grandma “seized the girl by her hair and threw her to the ground: then she kicked her until she was covered with blood, had her stripped naked and ordered her to be thrown into the baptismal pool." When the dust settled, Ingunda and Hermenigild were married, he converted to Catholicism, they led an unsuccessful revolt against the Arians, and Hermenigild was ultimately executed on the orders of his own father when he refused to recant his new faith. So yeah, Arianism versus Catholicism was a pretty big deal.

Beyond physical violence, from my research I feel a case could be made that Clovis exploited this religious schism for his own purposes; rather, than having a miraculous, battlefield conversion to Catholicism as noted in the literature (and depicted in this podcast’s cover art!), he likely considered all options and decided that tying himself to the Roman Church, with all of its social ties, physical infrastructure and links to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire was the most lucrative offer. It’s just not as sexy to show a man pondering which faith he’s going to pledge fealty to – like he’s choosing which college team to play football for – as it is to show him having a Constantine-like realization of which religion serves The One True God. But then again, I’m sure if ESPN had been around back in the late 5th century they could have done a nice Decision show à la LeBron:

“I’m taking my talents to Catholicism…”

Moving to point #2: Mommy issues…