Forgotten Versions of Christianity in the First Millennium
with Charles Freeman (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday 21st January, 2017


In the first millennium, many Christian groups were edged out of the mainstream church for a variety of reasons. Charles Freeman will look at the background to several of these groups and explore the issues over which they were discarded.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The early Christianities that went nowhere. The purpose of this study day is to explore some versions of Christianity, not necessarily heretical ones, that were diverted or diverted themselves from the mainstream. If by 180, we have Irenaeus with a form of Christianity recognisable, how and why did the others become lost?

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                Two vanishing alternatives. This session will look at how alternatives, Arianism and the Christianities trapped outside the Chalcedon Formula of 451. Rather than defining them (as I have done in earlier study days), I am more interested in the process by which they disappeared e.g. how did the Arianism of the ‘barbarians’ disappear in sixth and seventh century Europe.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 The Donatists. It is often forgotten that Augustine was a minority Christian within a sea of Donatists in Hippo and north Africa as a whole. I shall take advantage of Brent Shaw’s magisterial and acclaimed Sacred Violence (Cambridge 2011), to look at what happened to the Donatists.

14.50 – 15.10:                Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                The Celtic Christians. This was the most lively alternative Christianity in post-Roman Europe, especially interesting as Ireland had never experienced a Roman background. We will take the story up to the Viking invasions when the great age of Celtic Christianity came to an end.

  1. 16.00: Thanks and Close

About Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is a Suffolk-based freelance academic author with a wide interest in the history of the Mediterranean.. His published works include The Closing of the Western Mind (2002) and A New History of Early Christianity (2009). His most recent book,  Holy Bones , Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe (Yale University Press 2011), is the first systematic history of relic cults in English. He is Historical Consultant to the Blue Guides series and has contributed to the historical introductions for the city of Rome.  He also runs study tours of the Mediterranean.


At a previous Study Day by Charles, when asked ‘What was best about the day?‘ people said:

  • Very full and clear explanation of the topic.  Excellent teaching
  • Width of knowledge.  Clarity of speaker
  • The lectures – all good.  The course days are splendid.
  • His light touch in handling a huge subject
  • The delivery and information and theme
  • Establishing a theme, and bring coherence to a lot of jumbled half-knowledge I had.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, AD 200-1000.  Good on Irish Christianity – several editions, second hand much cheaper than the latest.

Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities (Oxford 2003). Concentrates on the early church (Session One).

Charles Freeman, A New History of Early Christianity (Yale 2009). Only goes up to AD 600 but provides the background.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity (London 2009), especially Part Three, Vanishing Futures, East and South (451-1500). MacCulloch enjoys following up the byways.