Christianisation: Even though the organisation of the Church in Austria broke apart with the decline of Roman rule, the Christian faith may have survived in parts of the population. Most of the east German tribes taking part in the Great Migration were Arians, the Huns, Bavarians, Slavs and Avars were pagans. Re-Christianisation, carried out in several stages, was introduced for political reasons by the Franks and promoted by the Carolingians, especially in the 8th century.
Even earlier, Iro-Scottish monks had started the first attempts at Christianisation soon after 600. Around 610 their main exponent, Kolumban (Columban) the Younger, built a monastery and a church near Bregenz, but had to move to Italy two years later (died in Bobbio, 615). His disciple, Eustasius, did missionary work in Bavaria and was active in Lorch (Upper Austria), but returned to Ireland in 629. Another important missionary for Austria was Gallus (d. around 645), who completed the Christianisation of the Alemanni in the area of Lake Constance and divided Vorarlberg between the bishoprics of Chur and Constance. Apart from that, Christianisation through individual Iro-Scottish monks was only intermittently effective; their last exponent in the 8th century was Bishop Virgil of Salzburg.
Around 700 the Bavarian duke assigned new places of activity to the monastic bishops from Frankish regions: Emmeram from the southwest of Gaul was active in Regensburg, Corbinian from the Gallican-Frankish region of the River Seine in Freising and Rupert from the environs of Worms in Salzburg. The latter found some parts of the population to be Christians and the monastery of St. Peter in Salzburg still had an Iro-Scottish community of monks. In the 8th century Rupert also founded the Maximilian's cell in the monastery of Bischofshofen and a bishopric in Passau (731), whose first bishop was called Vivilo. These first bishops, together with their supporters, largely succeeded in Christianizing the Bavarians.
The third factor of Christianisation in Austria was the Anglo-Saxon mission, the main exponent of which, Bonifatius, organised the Bavarian church in 739 on Papal order and with the consent of the Bavarian duke; he also divided up the territory into four bishoprics, which were also to determine the future Austrian church structure. The Iro-Scottish features disappeared, despite Virgil's efforts to maintain them in Salzburg. Further Christianisation occurred with the rise of the Carolingian Empire, since it guaranteed the continuing existence of Christianity and promoted the foundation and completion of church institutions (archbishopric Salzburg 798).
Missionary work was carried on from the bishoprics to the Slavic regions. Before 774 Bishop Virgil of Salzburg (d. 784) built a church of respectable size on the site of the present-day cathedral and started to Christianise the Alpine Slavs in Karantania. Modestus, a bishop subordinate to Virgil, built a church in Maria Saal (consecrated 767). In 833 Prince Priwina was baptised in Traismauer. By these activities Salzburg acquired a large district, which was enlarged by the bishoprics of Gurk, Seckau and Lavant during the 11th and 12th centuries.
Passau was assigned mission activities in the Danube valley, which proved very successful during the 9th century and even included the Slavs living in Moravia. In the Carolingian March monasteries and churches were founded (St. Florian and St. Poelten), but no parish organisation was as yet established. In the 2nd half of the 9th century the Slavic bishops Cyril and Methodius became rivals of the Bavarian bishops, who tried to defend themselves by emphasizing their own missionary success.
The Christianisation of the native population (most of the immigrants were Christians) encountered a severe setback by the Hungarian attacks in eastern Austria in the 10th century and was not completed until the end of the 10th century. This is documented by cemeteries from that time, where Christians and pagans were buried next to each other. The establishing of marches around 970 and their colonization occurred in the name of Christianity and led to the systematic foundation of parishes, followed by the foundation of new monasteries and the development of a culture completely determined by the spirit of Christianity.
Literature#H. Koller, Die Christianisierung des Ostalpenraumes, in: Religion und Kirche in Oesterreich, Schriften des Instituts fuer Oesterreichkunde, 1972; H. Ubl, Fruehchristliches Oesterreich, in: Severin. Zwischen Roemerzeit und Voelkerwanderung, exhibition catalogue, Enns 1982 (with a list of Christian churches in Austria in Roman times); St. Peter in Salzburg, exhibition catalogue, Salzburg 1982.