BAVARIANS, CONVERSION OF THE: The origin of the race later known as the Bavarians is uncertain. The older hypothesis that they came of Celtic stock is now generally abandoned. For a time it was thought that they were a conglomerate of the remains of several tribes belonging to the Gothic family; but the view put forward by Zeuss (Die Herkunft der Bayern, Munich, 1857) that they are to be identified with the Marcomanni is now almost universally accepted, and has strong support in the facts.
The Marcomanni are first mentioned by Caesar (Bel. Gal., i, 51). In his time they lived on the upper Main. Tacitus knows of them as inhabiting what is now Bohemia (Germ., xlii; cf. Annal., ii, 26 sqq.). Here they maintained their position for centuries, and here they took the name of Baiowarii or Baioarii. During this period, Christianity found an entrance among them. Paulinus, in his life of Ambrose (xxxvi), tells of a queen
The name of Bavarians is first applied in the Frankish list of tribes belonging to the first quarter of the sixth century. The territory which they occupied was no desolate wilderness. In the valleys and around the lakes there was a thin agricultural population which held to the Latin tongue and doubtless also to the Christian faith. Not all the cities were destroyed; Juvavum and Lauriacum lay in ruins; but neither Castra Batava nor Castra Regina was without inhabitants, and here also Christianity undoubtedly held its own with the Romanic population. Christians and heathens thus living as neighbors, a starting-point was afforded for missionary efforts. The ecclesiastical organization had, it is true, been broken up; only in southern Bavaria a bishopric founded in Roman times maintained its existence at Seben, and the diocese of Augsburg stretched over a part of the Bavarian territory. Under these circumstances the fact was of decisive importance that the Bavarians no sooner occupied their new home than they came into a position of dependence on the Frankish kingdom. The first ducal family, that of the Agilulfings, was of Frankish origin and professed Christianity, and the first outsiders who labored for the spread of the faith in Bavaria came from the Frankish kingdom. Eustasius of Luxeuil the successor of Columban, worked there, and left missionaries trained by him when he returned to Burgundy. Later, Rupert, bishop of Worms, found a wide field here for his activity; Emmeram and Corbinian were Franks. Side by side with them there seem to have been at a very early period some Scoto-Irish monks, but there is no record of their labors. The result of the combined operation of these imperfectly known factors was the acceptance of Christianity by the Bavarian race as a whole, which was completed in the course of the seventh century. It is a remarkable fact that it was not accompanied by the organization of a local episcopate; as far as can be told the direction of ecclesiastical affairs was in the hands of the dukes; it is Theodo who invites Rupert thither, and who treats with the pope in regard to church institutions. From this fact it would appear that the Christian profession of the dukes played a decisive part in the conversion of the people at large. The existence of the Church without diocesan bishops was made possible by the fact that the wandering monks and missionaries were frequently in episcopal orders, and could thus perform the strictly episcopal functions.
The above-mentioned Duke Theodo, acting in concert with the pope, endeavored to introduce a more regular organization. With this end in view, he visited Rome in 716, and had an agreement with Pope Gregory II as to the measures to be taken. At least four dioceses were to be founded corresponding to the divisions of the secular jurisdiction. The bishop of the most important place was to be set as metropolitan at the head of the Bavarian Church, the pope reserving the right to consecrate him, and if necessary to name an Italian. Order was to be brought into the ecclesiastical affairs by a general visitation; the Roman use was to be taken as the model in liturgical matters. But these plans were never carried into execution, apparently by reason of the death of Theodo. The organization of the Bavarian bishoprics, involving the termination of the missionary period, was only accomplished by Boniface, who paid a short visit to the country in 719, and returned in 735 or 736 to make a formal visitation by virtue of what was practically a metropolitan jurisdiction over the whole of Germany, for the purpose of acquiring full information as to the prevailing conditions. His definite organizing work is introduced by a brief (738 or 739) from Gregory III to the bishops of Bavaria and Alemannia, enjoining them to receive Boniface with fitting honors as his representative, and to attend a synod to be held by him. In 739 Boniface undertook the settlement of diocesan boundaries and institutions, and provided three of the four bishoprics of Bavaria with bishops consecrated by himself–Erembrecht, brother of Corbinian, at Freising, Gavibald at Regensburg, and John, a newcomer from England, at Salzburg–while Vivilo, who had been consecrated by the pope, remained at Passau. Gregory III confirmed these arrangements on Oct. 29, and the subordinate divisions of archdeaconries and parishes were soon organized. The decisions of the Synod of Reisbach (799) show the parochial system in full operation.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hauck, KD, vol. i; S. Riezler, Geschichte Bayerns, vol. i, Gotha, 1873; Rettberg, KD, 2 vols.; Friedrich, KD, 2 vols.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.