The Formation of Christian Europe: Baptism under the Carolingians

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation shows how Carolingian writers, as they reflected on the sacraments, and particularly on baptism, were led to distinctive understandings of politics, government, society, and culture. It helps to recenter scholarly understanding of a key development in the course of Western Civilization: the establishment of Christendom, or as they termed it, the Imperium christianum. Carolingian leaders conceived of their world and the people in it through a conceptual framework derived from the sacrament of baptism. Whatever Christendom has come to mean in popular understanding, it was for the Carolingians the society of the baptized. I study the religious metaphors and theological concepts which underlie the political and social ideas common to a variety of early medieval texts including law codes, theological treatises, land charters, ethical instruction, ritual commentaries, chronicles and other narrative sources. Careful study of early medieval books, especially how early medieval writers juxtaposed different genres of literature structured to privilege the implications of baptism, strengthen my argument and ground my study in the material culture of the early Middle Ages. Scholars have long described the Carolingians as militant Christians and religious reformers. My study will be the first to identify the aims of the Carolingian reform program by unlocking the religious discourse common to a wide array of sources produced in diverse centers over more than a century.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07202005-142524

Author Owen Michael Phelan
Advisor Thomas F.X. Noble
Contributor Michael Driscoll, Committee Member
Contributor John Cavadini, Committee Member
Contributor John Van Engen, Committee Member
Contributor Thomas F.X. Noble, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2005-07-08

Submission Date 2005-07-20
  • United States of America

  • medieval history

  • medieval theology

  • liturgy

  • carolingian

  • baptism

  • early middle ages

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.