'Tolerance is the Soul of Europe': Christendom, Religious (In)Tolerance, and the Birth of Europe
From Sydney Lazarus
It is not uncommon to see Europe, and in particular the idea of European unity, in the long term as the product of a ‘secularization’ of Christendom, and the rise of tolerance as the result of secular Enlightened thinking. However, secularization is a poor concept to approach the long term transition from (medieval) Christendom to modern concepts of Europe. Nevertheless modern Europe (and to some extent the West) is the heir of Christendom as it actually continues one of its most fundamental features, namely the longing for homogeneity and the fear of diversity.
This lecture was given by Patrick Pasture, Professor of History and Director of the Master Programme in European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives at KU Leuven on October 21, 2020. His lecture introduces and discusses the concept of Christendom and its relevance for European history, focusing on the ‘first phase’ of Western (or Latin) Christendom, between its conception in the Early Middle Ages and its transformation as a result of the Reformation. Dr. Pasture proposes a decentered, inclusive approach which questions the traditional boundaries of Christendom/ Europe. While the Middle Ages have been identified as the origin of the European ‘persecuting society’, that needs to be qualified taking in account not only different geographies and temporalities, but also the different, and changing meanings of identity, religion and the secular. It results not only in a surprisingly pluriform image, but questions the narrative of Europe that we are used to hear.