The end of the Roman Empire was marked in 476 AD with the fall of Romulus, who was overthrown by German barbarian leader Odoacer. This was the first time in a millennium when Rome was not under Roman rule. The next 500 years that followed witnessed a series of administrative destabilizations with various groups constantly fighting over what was left of the Roman Empire. What can, however, be observed during this period is that religion played a major role towards unifying the region under barbarian rule. These, among others, would later be referred to as the Barbarian Kingdoms.
The Role of the Church
The first emperor to embrace the significance of society was Constantine, who believed that he had come to power through the grace of Jesus Christ. This led to his declaration of a monotheistic religion, a move that was not welcome among most of the Romans, as theirs was a pagan setting at the time, oriented towards believing in the emperor as their one true god. By the time Barbarian Kingdoms came to be, the church had already established various doctrines that were to be followed. They also had influence in the administrative decisions made by the governing authorities as regards setting up and enacting laws. The barbarians at the time were divided into factions that leaned towards either Byzantine Christianity and Roman Catholicism, and there was a rush between either group, battling to see who would have the most followers, as this would determine the kingdom with the biggest influence and control of the land (Kagan, Turner & Ozment 153).
The church also acted as a platform for the unification of the rich and the poor, a factor that lacked in the pagan religions which secluded the two groups by having gods that served the rich and the poor separately. This made the kingdoms stronger as they were more stable and would resultantly pull resources together more easily whenever they faced a common enemy or tragedy. Neighboring groups were, therefore, more easily convinced to cooperate with the kingdoms through Christianity as the common pillar.
The Role of Benedictine Monasticism
As the church spread its influence across the Barbarian Kingdoms, it witnessed a lot of persecution of Christians depending on the side they belonged to, of the available options. This nurtured the growth of Monastic Culture, which was gaining popularity and respect among the people. It majorly gained Christian support at the time owing to the fact that it embraced the biblical counsels of perfection, which included obedience, poverty, and chastity (Kagan, Turner & Ozment 161). Hermit Monasticism, which was the first and milder version, further developed into Communal Monasticism as its followers grew in numbers. Monasticism encouraged order, labor, and discipline within the community, all of which were characters that played a major role in ensuring the kingdoms were more easily and sufficiently governed.
The monks further went on to take part in practices such as caring for widows and orphans, all the while encouraging the community to engage in regular prayers and to indulge in studies whenever they were not engaged in manual labor (Kagan, Turner & Ozment 161). Such were the characteristics that led them towards gaining recognition in the kingdoms as a spiritual force that commanded both political and economic power. These made it easier for the Benedictine missionaries to Christianize more and more followers as it spread in the region, a factor that further enhanced the unification and rapid development of the Barbarian Kingdoms.
Kagan, M. Donald, Turner, Frank & Ozment, Steven. (2013) The Western Heritage. 11th Ed. Pearson Publishing Ltd. p. 149 – 175