BackContentsNext

FRISIANS: A people of Germanic stock dwelling along the coast of the North Sea from the Sinkfal, a tributary'of the Scheldt, to the lower courses of the Weser, with an outlying spur (the North Frisians) on the western coast of Sleswick-Holstein. Their neighbors to the north and east were the Saxons, and to the south and west the Franks. With the latter they came into close contact, and accordingly as the Frankish influence advanced or receded the influence of Christianity rose or waned among the Frisian tribes, their conversion remaining uncompleted until the final incorporation of their territory by the Frankish empire. Mission work was begun among the Frisians in the early part of the seventh century but was followed by a pagan reaction which wiped out all traces of the new faith. The process of permanent conversion may be dated from the year 678 when Archbishop Wilfrid of York (q.v.), cast away on the Frisian coast, was hospitably received by King Aldgild at whose court he remained during the winter preaching and baptizing. It was, however, a pupil of Wilfrid, Willibrord, who came to Friesland in 690, who deserves the name of apostle of the Frisians (see Willibrord). At the time of his advent the successor of Aldgild was engaged in conflict with the Frankish king Pepin, and Willibrord was compelled to restrict his labors to that part of the region south of the Rhine which was under the Frankish power. There his efforts met with pronounced success and in 695 the Frisian territory as far as the river Fly was organized into an archbishopric of which Willibrord became the first head. Till his death in 739 he was busy in perfecting the organization of the church, interrupted only by a short period when the Frisian King Radbord, in conjunction with the forces of Neustria succeeded in wresting the conquered territory from the Franks (714-718), only to lose it to Charles Martel. Under the immediate successors of Willibrord the mission failed to make decisive progress in the region beyond the Fly and it was not until 785 that the Frisians were brought entirely under the influence of the Gospel. Politically the western Frisians came under the authority of the counts of Holland and' from them passed to the houses of Burgundy and Hapsburg, while the eastern' Frisians after dwelling for a long time as a league of independent communities finally chose a common ruler, who in the reign of Emperor Frederick III. became count of East Friesland . The Reformation plunged Friesland into a protracted conflict between the Lutheran and Reformed tendencies which had made their way into the country- from lower Saxony and Belgium and Holland respectively, a conflict in which the two parties showed themselves matched with sufficient evenness to prevent the establishment of a church organization of either type. In 1599 a concordat was concluded by which the two confessions were both recognized as the legitimate offspring of the Augsburg Confession and the control of church affairs was vested iw a consistory comprising representatives of both parties. The principles of the concordat, however, were not carried into effect. In 1643 a consistory was organized of an exclusively Lutheran character, but it was antagonized by the ruling body of the Reformed Church. Full equality between the two denominations was established by the law of Dec. 12, 1882, when the Reformed churches of Friesland together with those of the counties of Bentheim and Plesse were united into the ecclesiastical province of Hanover under the authority of a consistory at Aurich established in 1884.

(G. Uhlhorn.)

Bibliography: . D. Wiarda, Oat(rteeieahe Geschichte, 10 vols., ib. 1792-1817; C. A: Cornelius, Der Anfheil Oatfriedands an der keformation, Mffwter, 1852 P Claeseens hclairciasementa sur l'RaNiasementa dea f&J,& dana lee Pays-Bas. Louvain, 1859; W. Moll, BarkgaecAiedenis roan Nederland, Arnhem, 1864-71; W. T. Hewett, Frisian Language and Literature, New York, 1879; P. G. Bartels, Zur 0eachiehle des ostiriesisden Konratoriuraa, Aurieh, 1885; P. J. Blok, Friealand im Mit, Leer, 1891; W. E. Collies, Early Hist, of Prieia, London, 1891 (on the conversion of Frisia); Hofstede de Groot, Hundert Jahre aus der Reformation der Niederlande, G├╝tersloh, 1893; P. Blom, QsaAiedenie roan Oud-Friealand, L eeuwarden, 1900; Rettberg, RD; Hauck, KD, i. 295 sqq., 393 sqq., 541 sqq., ii. 310 sqq.; HL, iv. 2049-58.

BackContentsNext


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely