Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Maribel Dietz


This dissertation examines the character and development of a Christian heroic ideal in Anglo-Saxon England between the seventh and eleventh centuries and its manifestation through notions of holy war. It provides a valuable case study of the ongoing synthesis which occurred when the Germanic peoples converted to Christianity. The mutual transformation wrought in the traditional Germanic warrior ethos and Christian faith and values permeates the literary sources for Anglo-Saxon history, from the early hagiographies and Bede's Ecclesiastical History, through later histories and chronicles, to the unique corpus of Old English poetry. As early as the first generation of Anglo-Saxon Christianization, the Germanic warrior ethos combined both with an ascetic tradition within Christianity which stressed spiritual warfare and with the martial necessities confronting a Christian society in the violent world of the early Middle Ages. The Viking onslaughts of the ninth and tenth centuries, portrayed in religious terms by Anglo-Saxon contemporaries as a conflict between Christians and pagans, served to crystallize Anglo-Saxon ideas of Christian heroism as expressed in holy war. Whereas previously these ideas had centered around kings, innovations in Christian kingship during the same period had the effect of broadening the ranks of holy warriors to include non-royal figures. The Anglo-Saxon evidence shows that a distinctly martial cast to Christianity usually associated with the age of crusading in the eleventh to fourteenth centuries was from the beginning, in the seventh century, fundamental to the Anglo-Saxon conception of their new faith.