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The Massacre of Verden (German: Blutgericht von Verden) was an alleged massacre of Saxons in 782 near the present town of Verden in Lower Saxony, Germany, ordered by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars.

Contents

History

In 782 A.D. some 4,500 Saxon leaders are said to have been beheaded for practicing their indigenous paganism, having officially, albeit under duress, converted to Christianity and undergone baptism. The river Aller was said to have been flowing red with their blood. Charlemagne's motives were to demonstrate his overlordship and the severity of punishment for rebellion.

The effect was that the Saxons lost virtually their entire tribal leadership and were henceforth largely governed by Frankish counts installed by Charlemagne. The Saxon leader, Duke Widukind, had escaped to his in-laws in Denmark, but soon returned, submitted to Charlemagne, and accepted conversion.

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Controversy

The veracity of this event is questioned in some quarters: there may have been a misspelling in the original source by which the Latin delocabat (meaning exiled or displaced) erroneously became decollabat (meaning beheaded). Archaeological evidence for the massacre has not been found, although the bodies of the slain could have been buried elsewhere by their next-of-kin.

The first challenge to the historical records of the massacre was apparently published by Karl Bauer in 1937 in his Die Quellen für das sogenannte Blutbad von Verden (Münster, 1937).

On the issue of beheading the historian Ramsay MacMullen notes that in 681 a council of bishops at Toledo called on civil authorities to seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of whatever sort.[1] These massacres were common on both sides throughout the Christianization of Europe, with similar events involving pagan Saxons, Germans and Celts and Christians documented in Britain and Ireland.

Legacy

In 1935, Heinrich Himmler ordered Wilhelm Hübotter, a noted Nazi-landscape architect, to build the Sachsenhain (Grove of the Saxons), a monument consisting of 4,500 large stones in Verden, to commemorate the alleged massacre.[2] Supposedly, each stone came from one of 4,500 villages in Lower Saxony, and is today noted as an example of pseudoarchaeology: it is "probably the most comprehensive work of ersatz prehistory ever undertaken."[3]

The site today belongs to the youth organization of the Protestant Church and is accessible to the public.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ramsay MacMullen, "Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries", Chap 1:16,"Persecution", ISBN 0-300-07148-5
  2. ^ Wolschke-Bulmahn, Joachim (2001). Places of commemoration: search for identity and landscape design. Dumbarton Oaks. p. 284. ISBN 9780884022602. http://books.google.com/books?id=cvMNFOqVs3YC&pg=PA284.  
  3. ^ J. Meades, "The Devil's Work," The Times Magazine 29 October 1994: 36-44; cited in Fagan, Garrett G. (2006). Archaeological fantasies: how pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public. Routledge. p. 167. ISBN 9780415305938. http://books.google.com/books?id=oB7pBZ3s6dIC&pg=PA167.  

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