*** great religious traditions European countries

Country Religious Trends: Europe

Figure 1.--The Reformation was a - critical development in Christianity. This German group looks to be a school group, but we believe are children doing their confirmation in the 1920s. That may be a church in the background or a denominational school. The boys wear king panrs suits with Shiller collars and school caps. The girls wear sailor dresses. We are not sure why there are so few girls. Perhaps our German readers will know more.

Europe had many religious traditions. The Celts, Germans, and many others all had primitive aimistic religions. The religions have disappeard, but affected the development of Christianity in diffrent countries. The best known was the classical traditions of Greece and Rome. As the Toman Empire expanded in encompassed many new people and their religions. The Empire was fexible concernuing these religions abnd cults and many grew within the Empire. The Jew were one of the few groups supressed by Rome as well as the Jesus Movement as it transitioned into Christianity. As part of this process, the Apostle Paul helped create a Church which merged Jusdaism with Helanism and the classical tradition of Rome. The Empire attempted to supress Christianity, but even becofe Constantine became a vehicle for the spread of Christimity. The Church at first coexisted with Judaism, but gradually became more hostile. With the rise of Islam, the third Abrhamic religion, in the Middle East, large Christian areas in the Middle East and North Africa were Islamicized. Muslim armies invaded Europe from the west, but were stopped by the French. Later the Ottomans in the East, but were stopped by the Austrians and Poles. Thus Christendom became Europe with a few small Muslim enclaves in the Balkans and aewish minority which was gradually driven east. The Church was the center of edcation and learning. In the late-medieval just as the Muslim world turned against science and secular learning, Reuropeans began to question the Church's hold on learning, especially the Roman Church which created the Inquistion. TheSpanish Inquisition was even more severe. Major change bgan with the Renaissance (Italy) and continued with the Reformation (Germany) and Enligtenment (France). The Reformation resulted in many new denominations. One of the most importantwas Anglicism (Enghland), a kind of middle way between Catholocism and Protestantism. These three movements nevered occured within Islam. The Church at first opposed modern economic mechanisms like interest. And the Church structure was hardly democrtic. The Church, however, came to play a major role in the development of democracy. Here the value placed on individual human life and the preservation of Roman law through cannon law were factors. Christianity, especially Protestant churches in the countries of northern Europe, also plyed an important role in the development of free market capitalism. This varied greatly from country to country. Christendom divided on a regional basis. Catholcism was dominant in the southern countries, Protestntism in the northern countries, and Orxthodoxy in the eastern countries. These differences weretransferred by colonial regimes to the America. In the 20th century the hold of Christianity on Europe has weakened. Socialist thought was hostile to religion. Some authors describe the de-Christianization of Europe. Even so, the Cayholic Church in Poland played an importnt role in the collapse of the Soviet Empire.


Austria has an extensive religious history. Religion is deeply etrenched in Austrian history and played a major role in European history. With the Reformation, Europe was engulfhed in terrible religious wars. Austria was the center of the Catholic Counter Reformation. Austria is primarily associated with the Roman Catholic church, but the coutry's religious history is much more diverse. While Catholics predominate, over tume a spirit of toleration has developed. Austria since he early-Medieval era has been mosly Catholic. Most Austrians are Roman Catholic. The 1971 Census indicated ovr 87 percent. Austria has been affected by the secular trends that have affected all of Europe. The 1991 Census indicated that the percentage of Catholics had declined to 78 percent. The number of Protestants aklso declined. One of Austria's most important minorities were the Jews. There were about 0.2 million Jews in Austria, primarily concentrated in Vienna. Tragically, the NAZIs destroyed Austria's Jewish minority in the Holocaust. Austrians are still mostly Catholics. Many are culturally Catholic, but do not actively practice. Boys of course dress up to go to church. Often new suits are bought for First Communion, Confirmation, and Firmung.


Belgium is largely Catholic as a result of Spanish victories in the Dutch Wars for independence. What is now Belgium in fact became known as the Spanish Netherlands. Both the Flemish and Waloons are predominantly Catholic, although the country has become increasingly secular in recent years. As most Belgians are Catholic, First Communion has been an important event in the lives of many Belgian children. There are also minority religions. There are some Protestants. The small Jewish population was decimated by the NAZI World war II Holocaust duting the German World War II occupation. Since World War II a Muslim munority has grown in the country. There are a variety of clothing and costumes associated with religious observation in Belgium.


Bosnia is the most religiously diverse country in the Balkans. There are Christians, Muslims, and atheists. Atheists as mentioned in Bosnian sources tends to refer to the non-religious members of the population, noy so much people who are strident atheists. Bosnia as part of the Roman Empire was Christianized along with the rest of the Empire (300s AD). When the Great Schism occured, Bosnian Christians split into Orthodox and Roman Catholics. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country (14th centuty). Most Christians in the Balkans during Ottoman rule resisted conversion. Substantial numbers of Bosnias, however, converted to Islam and there was an influk of Moslem migrants/refugees over time as aeslt of the turblent history of the Balkns. Over time Bosnia has experienced many wars that have affected changes in the religious composition. Islam became the major faith of Bosnians during the Ottoman era and has remained so to this day. Here ethnicity is a factor. The country is also split along ethnic lines. There were four principal ethnic/e=rekigious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, and Jews. The small Jewish community was murdered during World War II by the Gernans and their allies. The Bosniaks are primarily Muslim. erbs are mostly Eastern Orthodox Church and the Croats are mostly Roman Catholic.



Henry VIII brought the Reformation to England. This was not his intention. He simply wanted to control the Church. His children Edward VI and Elizabeth II would turn Britain into a Protestant country. There remained a small and supressed Catholic minority. Over time this was increased with immigration from Ireland. Theology was a much disputed subject that was not fully resolved until the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution of the 17th century. While the Church of England is a Protestant Church, it retained more of Catholic liturgy than other Protestant Churches. The Church continued the traditions of altar boys. The Church of England in the 19th revived the tradition of boy choirs at the great cathedrals. We note children doing Forst Communions. We think these were Catholic children, but have little information at this time.



France is a largely Roman Catholic country. Protesant groups have been severely persecuted in France. Since the Revolution there has been relogious freedom. After World War II, migrants from North Africa have added Islam to France's important religious groups. Religion has palyed a major role in France's history and the lives of its people. The importance of religion and church attendance has declined significantly in France. Even so so, religion is still an important force in France, especially in the lives of children. Many French boys have served as altar boys. The Church has been the primary force behind the organization of boys choirs. The Church has also palyed a key role in French education. Most French boys have a First Communion which is a major event in their lives. Important French holiday are religious festivals, including the most important for children--Christmas.


Germany is a predominantly Protestant country. The Reformation was born in Germany with Marin Luther posting his "95 Thesis. The resulting religious wars devestated Germany, especially the 30 Years War. Luthernism is the primary Protestant denomination. There is, however, a very sunstantial Catholic minority, especially in southern Germany. German boys wear a variety of dress outfits for relious events ceremonies associated with formal religious events. Catholic boys often have special suits for first communion or serve as altar boys. Protestant boys may get new suits for communion or confirmation. Boys may also have costumes for weddings, serving either as the ring bearer or ushers.



Religion is a major activity and one which has played an imporrant role in Hungarian history. Hungary is a largely Catholic country. Hungary is located in central Europe on the Danube. This central location meant that the country was occupied by many of the principal invaders who played a role in European history (Romans, Germns, Huns, Avars, Magars, Mongols, and Ottomon Turks. It was also swept by the Reformation and Counter Reformation as well as the Communists safter Wokld War II. The Hungarian kings and Hapsburg emperors kept Hungary Catholic. The country's diverse heritage as wll as a half-century of Communist rule has introduced a substatial degree of religious skepticism. As in muvh of Europe today, many who identify as Castholic so not regularly asttend church. The counry toiday is very secular. We notice children doing First Communions and participating in weddings.


Religion is another important activity and has played an especially important role in Irish history. This has meant primarily the Roman Catholic Church. Some 85 percent of the population is Catholic. Most Irish churches are despite the political division organised on an all-Ireland basis which includes both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the south. We have little infirmtion before the advent of the Celts. The ancient Irish were pagan polytheistic, worshipping gods and goddesses of Celtic origin. Christianity came to Ireland from Roman Britain. St. Patrick was a major force is Christianizing the Irish, but not the only missionary involved. The Celtic Irish largely cut off from wider European developments, eveloped their own destinctive religion. They played a role in Chrianizing the Anglo-Saxons who invaded Britin, especially in the north, but it was Roman Catholocism that evetually prevailed, although with a continuing influence of the Catltic Church. The Anglo-Norman invasion enforced greater conformity within the Irish church to Catholic standards. The later Ellizabethan invasion and adoption of Protestantism by Ireland's nobility brought the Reformation to Ireland. Presbyterian and Anglican settlers established a Protestant tradition, leading to centuries of conflict with Irish Catholics. It was the common people who never falted in their faith who unlike Scotland and Wales who help keep Ireland a Catholic country. And of course there are imprtant activities roles for boys in the Church. This incluses chorieters, altars boys, and first communions. Christianity is historically the most imporant religion in Ireland and continues to be so.


Religion is a very important part of Italian life. The history of Italy has for centuries been affected if not dominated by the Papacy and the Catholic Church. This began to change after the Reformation, although Italy remained Catholic. The French Revolution brought many new ideas into Italy. Most Italians describe themselves as Catholic, although many are today non-practicing. The popularity of Scocialist ideology has been a factir here. Italy today is one of the least religious countries in Europe, although most Italians commonly identify themselves as Catholic. Manu Italian boys have served as altar boys, although boy choirs have not been common in the modern era. It is interesting to note that in Italy with one dominant religion that has often been supported by the state, the status of the Church has steadily declined in the modern age. In contrast, in America wiyhout an established church, religion is a major factor in the national life.


Religion was important in Latvian life before World War II. There were substantial varition among the different Latvian ethnic groups. Latvia's position in northern Europe (where protestant dominated and surrounded by Cathholic Poland and Orthodox Russia made for a divere religious community. Latvia was ruled by Orthodox Tsarist Russia for more than two centuries. The cities had an important German Protestabnt community. The single most important religion was Evangelical Lutheranism. Slightly more than half of Latvians were Lutherans (55 percent). This varied ethnically. Nearly 70 prcent of the ethnic Latvians were Lutherans. The next most important religion was Roman Catholocism, influenced by a long historical assocation with Catholic Poland. About 25 percent of Latvians were Catholic, relatively the same proportion for both Latvians as a whole as well as ethnic Latvians. The Catholic popultion was centered in the economically poor southeastern province of Latgale. Here there was a short border with northeastern Poland. Today it is part of Belarus. About 70 percent of the population of Latgale was Catholic. Thus some Latvians viewed Catholicism of more of a regional religion. This is another reason that Lutheranism was seen as the dominant national religion. The Orthodox Church of Latvia accounted for about 10 percent of the population. Most of the Orthoox were Russians and other Slaves. Orthodixy was less common among ethnic Latvians. Old Believers, a Russian fundamentalist sect, account for another 5 percent of the population. Many were ethnic Russians whi had fled Tsarist persecution (17th century). They settled in what was at the time Swedish- and Polish-controlled Latvia. Latvia also had a small Jewish population, about 5 percent of the population. The rest of Latvia's pre-War population was a variety of Protestant denominations. The importance of religion in Latvian life was substantially reduced by World War II and the ensuing Soviet annexation. The Soviets seized control (1940) as prt of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact and launched an atheism campign. The Germans invaded as part of Operation Barbarossa (1941). They destroyed the country's Jewish community as part of the Holocaut. The Sovies reentered Latvia (1944) and launched theur atheism campsign in earnest.


(The) Netherlands

The Dutch are primarily Christians, mostly Protestants. There are also Catholics and other religions such as Islam brought by immigrant groups. Religion has featured prominently in the history of the Netherlands, in many ways one of the principal reasons that the Dutch wanted an independent country. The Netherlands developed a tradition of toleration in relgious matters. After Spain expelled the Jews in 1492, many came to the Netherlands. This acceptance of religious and cultural differences was an important factor in the vibrant intelectual, economic, and cultural life of the Netherlands and conversely the supression of such differences was a major factor in the decline of Spin in the 16th and 7th centuries. As late as the early 20th century religion was still very important in Dutch life. Most people attended church and dressed in their best clothes. Important events in the lives of Dutch children were First Communnion and Confirmantion. Church attendance in the modern Netherlands has fall off significantly.


Poland is a largely Catholic country. The Church has played a major role in the country's history. During the five decades of Communist rule, the Church successfully resisted the Communists, the only national institution to do so. The Church was the principal naional institution during the 19th century when most of Poland was controlled by Orthodox Russia, Poland until World war II had a large Jewish minority which was largely destroyed by the NAZI Holocaust. Poland after World War I acquired a large area in the East with a more diverse ethnic and religious make up than largely Catholic central Poland. Much of what is now Beylorusia was between the Wars a part of Poland. This included Lithuanians, White Russians, Ukranians, and others. Thus the religious makeup of the country has been affected by the boundaries. After World War II the boundaries of Poland were essentialky shifted West and the Polish population to the east transported to the new boundaries given the country a much more purely Polish and Catholic make up.


The primary religion in Portugal is Roman Catholic Christianity. This has been the case the Chrstianization of the Roman Empire (4th century AD). Small numbers of Jews settled in what is now Portugal presumably during the Roman era, but actualn hisyorical references only dte bavk to the Muslim era. . The Muslim invasion (8th cntury) meant that Islam appeared in Portugal. There was considerable tolerance and inter-marriage during the Musim era. Portugal was one of the first Christian kingdoms to develop as part of the Reconquista. There was at first an impressive degree of religious yolerance which slowly declined as the Recinquista progressed. After the fall of Granada to Spanish forces, both Jews and Muslims were expelled (1492). The Inquistion attempte to purify Portugal of Jewish and Muslim influences. The impact on Portugal was stultifying going far beyond the small Jewish and Muslim poplation. Portugal and Spain which had led the European maritime outreach (15th century) as well as the conquest and Christinization of the New World. The Inquisition, however, turned Portugal and Spain into European backwaters. The Church and momarchy worked together to create a very conservative, closed society. A church faces a government building across virtually every town and village main square, a power structure repeated in Brazil. Portugal like Spain was largely unaffected by both the Protestant Reformation (16th century) and the Enlightenment (18th century). Portugal began to change (20th century). The church and state were officially separated during the First Republic (1910-26).


The principal religion of Russia for a millenia was Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Russia's Russian Orthodox Church is believed to have been founded by the Apostle Andrew, although this is by tradition rather than any real historical records. St. Andrew may have visited Scythia and Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea. One tradition reports Andrew reaching what was to become Kiev. St. Andrew's Cathedral today is reportedly located where At Andrew planted a cross. Better historical records show the influence of Byzabntium and the Eastern Church on Slavic lands by the 9th century. Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius translated parts of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic (863-869). This was an important step in the Christianization of the Slavs. Patriarch Photius or Patriarch Ignatios at Constantinople sent the first Christian bishop to Novgorod (866-67). Chritianity had begun to make inroads with the Kievian nobility (mid-10th century). Greek and Byzantine priests were active. Princess Olga of Kiev was the first ruler of Kievan Rus to convert to Christianity (945/957). Olga's randson, Vladimir the Great, made Kievan Rus' a Christian state. Prince Vladimir I of Kiev officially adopted Byzantine Rite Christianity (988). The Russian Orthodox Church has come to see this date as the creation of the Russian Orthodix Church. The Church thus traces its apostolic succession through the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Kievan church was a Metropolitanate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As Kiev began to decline with the Mongol invasions, the Metropolitanate and thus the center of the Russian Church moved to Moscow (1326). While the Nongols conquered Russia, they did not attempt to destroy the Church. By the time Ivan drove out the Tartars, Russia was thorougly Orthodox Christian. The fall of Constantinope (1453) made Moscow to claim the role as the center of the Orthodox Church. Religious diversity occurred as a result of Tsarist military campaigns. Werstern rite Roman Catholics were brought into the Empire with the acquisition of the Western Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania. The conquest of Estonia and Finland brought Protestants. Catherine's success againt the Ottomans in the south brought Muslins into the Empire. The Russian Revolution brought the Communists to power who promoted atheism (1917). Stalin persued a ruthless program to supress both the Orthodoix Church and Islam. The program had considerable success, but did not suceed in totally destroying religion and there has been a revival since the fall of Commuism and the disolution of the Soviet Union (1991). Today in Russia boys dress up for special occassions which now includes attending church or outings of various sorts.


We know very little about per-Christian religious practices in Scotland. The Picts and Celts were per-literary societies. All that has survived are place names. Christianity was introduced to Britain by the Romans, especially after Constantine ended the persecution of Christians--the Edict of Milan (314). The Romans conquered what is now England, but failed to conquer the Celts and Pictish tribes in the North. Instead Emperor Hadrian built a densive wall. Christianity was first brought to Scotland by the Celtic Church, but as in England was evetually overwealmed by the Roman Church. The Reformation converted the vast mahority of Scotts, but Catholcism survived in isolated northern areas, especially the islands like Uist and Barr. Scotland is a largely Protestant country. The Scottish Reformation and Kirk had had a major influence on Western thought. The Scottish Reformsation played an important role in English Reformation. The Scottish enlightment through men like John Locke and Adam Smith had a powerful impact on both England and America, a remarable development for such a small country. Scotland and England were separate countries. The crowns were united, but not the countries. It was the Act of Union that created the United Kingdom, commonlkrefered to as Britain (1707). It was only possible because the English agreed to accept a separate Protestant (Presbeterian) Church of Scotland. There were a few isolated areas of Scotland that remained Catholic. And in the 19th century Irish emigration brought many Irish Catholics to Scotland, many went to Glasgow where there were industrial jobs.


Religion has played a major role in Spanish history and culture. Spain is a predominately Roman Catholic country, although like the rest of Europe, observation had declined in an increasingly secular country. We do not know a great deal about religion in ancient Spain. Some of the country was briefly dominated by Carthage, but seized by Rome in the Punic Wars (3rd century BC). To what extent the Chartheginians spread their relgion, we do not know. Roman paganism seems wide spread at the time the Empire was established and Rome completed its conquest of Spain (1st century BC). As in other areas of the Empire, Christianity slowly spread and became the state religion (4th century AD). The prosperous Roman colony was desvestated by pagan Germanic tribes (5th century AD). The Visigoths emerged as the dominant force and established a kingdom which eventually united with the the largely Christian and more numerous Roman-Iberian people. King Reccared made Christianity the state religion and recognized the authority of the Roman pope (6th century AD). Almost all of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by invading Moorish tribes who introduced Islam (8th century. Gradually suviving Christian princes in the northwest aided by Charlemagne launched the (Reconquista). Christian and Muslamic zealots considered the diversity of religion a weakness. In fact the period in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims oracticed their religion weith a degree of freedom led to Spain becoming the brightest intelectual and cultural center in Europe. Gradually the Christan kingsoms expanded southward and re-chrritianized the Peninsula which was completed with the fall of Granda (1492). Almost immnediatelly Ferdinand and Isbella expelled the Jews and Muslims. The Inquisition went after the Conversos and effectively prevented Protestantism from gaining a foothold in Spain. The monarchy also waged war against both the Protestants in northern Rurope and the Mislim Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean. It also firmly established Catholocism in its overseas empire. Despite the great wealth from the Empire, Spain wasted huge sums in military expeditions. And because the Inquisition stifeled the intelecual discourse and sciende sweeping much of the rest of Europe, the economy declined. Spain became a backwater, but a very Catholic backwater. The Spanish Catholic Church continued to be a very conservative force into the 20th century. The Church supported Franco in the Civil War (1936-39). And throughout the Franco era, the state supported the Church. Since Franco's death (1975), Spain has developed a more secular scociety. Today in Spain most people identify as being Cathloic, but this is often more of a cultural than a religious description. Many left-wing Spainards view the Church in negative terms. Socialist governments have passed secular legislation on marriage and abortion. As with other European countries, Muslims from North Africa, especially Morocco, have emigrated to Spain. There is also a small Jewish minority.


We also are developing some information on religion in Sweden. Sweden is a mostly Protestant country. The country played an important role in the Protestant Revolution, supporting the northern German states in their fight for Protestantism within the Holy Roman Empire. The Church of Sweden 'svenska kyrkan' is Lutheran. Most of the Swedish people are members. Today in Sweden there are several other Christian and non-Christian denominations. There re small numbers of Catholics, Baptists, and Pentecoastals. There is also the Covenant Church of Sweden 'Svenska missionsf�rbundet' which is related to the Reformed Churches. There are also Muslims and Jews. Here we see a Sunday school outing in Sweden. The church was located at L�ngshyttan and the photograp taken in 1927. It is a good glimse of what Swedish children were wearing in the 1920s.


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Created: 3:38 AM 5/21/2013
Last updated: 12:22 AM 12/2/2018