Nora Berend (History, University of Cambridge)
Conversion 'from the top' prevailed in early medieval processes of Christianization, as well as in the wave of Central, Eastern and Northern European conversions to Christianity of which Hungary was a part. The indigenous elite in all these cases had a pivotal role in the introduction of, and support for, the new religion. At the same time, one dynasty, or a particular branch of that dynasty, established its power firmly through Christian rulership. In this way, a new Christian identity of the kingdom was fashioned. What role did violence have in this process, and in representations of the process of conversion in later sources? As with most medieval topics, we have to be aware of the fact that we have no direct access to the past, but can only see it through the prism of the documents that have been preserved. In the Hungarian case, this means that we cannot give a definitive answer to the question of the actual use of violence in the medieval period; we can only hypothesize about it through the analysis of the sources. What we can be much more certain of, however, is the representation of the role violence allegedly played in the building of a new Christian kingdom; what significance sources over time attributed to violence in these processes; and medieval authors' ideas (justification or condemnation) of this violence.
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