Christians in late Pagan, and Pagans in early Christian Lithuania: the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
Jerome of Prague
Paganism, Christianization, baptism, Catholicism, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, ruler, duke, Jerome of Prague
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AbstractThis paper deals with the issue of the presence of Christians and pagans in pagan (13th century to 1387) and early Christian Lithuania (from 1387 to the early 15th century). The author proposes to use a group-oriented approach to deal with the question of the political decisionmaking process of accepting or not accepting the Christian faith. It is his contention that the personal "life style" preferences of individual dukes and their entourage were much more decisive than large-scale political calculations that have been given much attention by historians. This approach helps explain the incremental rise of Christianity within the ruling house, which carried the day when new rulers with a different mentality (Grand Duke Jogaila first) came to the helm of the state. The Christian presence was felt most in Vilnius, and to some degree also in Kernavė. Their arrival (from Livonia and Rus’) was encouraged by the pagan rulers of Lithuania to satisfy their need for a skilled workforce. The settlers certainly contributed to the final conversion of Lithuania initiated in 1387, by making the Christian influence a permanent factor and an attractive option. Pagans in Lithuania did not form a coherent religious group; that is why there was no opposition from them when the grand-ducal decision and the council of the boyars became the new rule of the land. Pagans could be encountered in Žemaitija in the early 15th century. Technically, they should be understood as non-baptised people. To treat as "pagan" those people who practised folk ways is problematic, as the excursus on the experiences of Jerome of Prague (c. 1369–c. 1440) shows. The general situation, even very close in the wake of the conversion, might be conceived as one of syncretism, which was the order of the day for people from the lower strata and living far away from churches for many centuries to come.