‘Prussians as Bees, Prussians as Dogs’: Metaphors and the Depiction of Pagan Society in the Early Hagiography of St. Adalbert of Prague
By Milosz Sosnowski
Reading Medieval Studies, 39 (2013)
Introduction: Medieval Christian missionary efforts can hardly be seen as scholarly expeditions set on learning. The goal of a missionary is not the studying of pagan error and ydolatria but rather rooting them out by any acceptable means. No matter how naive it might sound today, the pagan culture and identity were to be swiftly demolished and replaced with new Christian ones. These remarks also apply ‘to hagiographers describing the struggles of missionaries.
On one hand, as foes of Christianity, pagans and their religion should be destined for damnalio memoriae. But at the same time and for the same reason, i.e. because they are antagonists of the hagiographer’s hero, they can and should be utilised in giving an awe·inspiring picture of his sainthood and the triumph of true religion. Whats more, in composing their account of the beliefs and societal organization of the pagan peoples before and during the Christianization – a belief system and society in many aspects quite alien to them – medieval hagiographers often had to tum to the cultural equipment they had already acquired.
Top Image: Fresco of St. Adalbert of Prague at the Church of Saint Bartholomew, Kočí, Chrudim District, Czech Republic – photo by Honza Groh/Wikimedia Commons