Most people in Gaul in the centuries after the barbarian invasions belonged to a community wider than nation, city or family, a community with its own initiation ceremonies and meeting-places, membership of which gave people a sure knowledge of the world, both visible and invisible, and a chance of eternal happiness. The initiation ceremony was baptism, involving triple immersion in sunken pits or fonts in specially built baptisteries (both fonts and baptisteries often octagonal in shape, for the number 8 signified eternity and rebirth), and was usually performed by a bishop, at Easter, Christmas or on another suitable day such as the feast of St John the Baptist. Already by 500, child, rather than adult, baptism was the norm; in Carolin-gian times the child might be one or two years old. By then it had become much easier for parents to obtain the sacrament for their children: parish priests would perform the ceremony, using a small font inside their parish church. In theory, continuing membership of the community required fulfilment of the oaths sworn at baptism; in practice it required only a minimum participation in the sacraments. The Council of Agde in 506 laid down that every Christian should take communion at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost; Carolingian bishops decreed that every Christian should make confession of sins once a year, before Lent (hence Shrove Tuesday, from ‘to shrive’, meaning both to hear and to make confession).
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- The Christian Community
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number