Christianized sites

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The Christianization of sites that had been pagan occurred as a result of conversions in early Christian times, as well as an important part of the strategy of Interpretatio Christiana ("Christian reinterpretation") during the Christianization of pagan peoples. The landscape itself was Christianized, as prominent features were rededicated to Christian saints, sometimes quite directly, as when the island of Oglasa in the Tyrrhenian Sea was christened Montecristo.


  • When I dug into this temple, which had been destroyed by the Christians, I was shocked... I was barely 15, yet I understood in a powerful hands-on, nonintellectual way, how harsh had been Europe's conversion to Christianity. They burned temples, smashed statues, massacred the priests and established extremely harsh laws. By 392 ce, Paganism died.
  • St Martin, encouraged, set off to destroy yet another temple in yet another village. Martin’s good efforts exerted a doubly beneficial effect on the unbelievers of Gaul ‘for in those places where he had destroyed the pagan shrines, he immediately built either churches or monasteries’. Quite probably using the same stones. One might dismiss the hagiography of Martin as mere fiction – but archaeology supports its general theme: Gaul started to become ever more Christianized at around the time of Martin’s episcopate.
    • Catherine Nixey The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, 2017
  • Constantine, as his nephew the ‘apostate’ emperor, Julian, would scornfully say, was a ‘tyrant with the mind of a banker’. His destruction emboldened other Christians and the attacks spread. In many cities, people ‘spontaneously, without any command of the emperor, destroyed the adjacent temples and statues, and erected houses of prayer’.
    • Catherine Nixey The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World ,2017
  • At least from 1540 onwards, and in the island of Goa before that year, all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building materials were in most cases utilised to erect new Christian churches and chapels. Various vice regal and Church council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories; the public practice of Hindu rites including marriage rites, was banned; the state took upon itself the task of bringing up the Hindu orphan children; the Hindus were denied certain employments, while the Christians were preferred; it was ensured that the Hindus would not harass those who became Christians, and on the contrary, the Hindus were obliged to assemble periodically in churches to listen to preaching or to the refutation of their religion.
    • Dr. T. R. de Souza in M. D. David (ed.), Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, Bombay, 1988, p. 17. Quoted in S.R. Goel: History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • The priests of St. Paul’s Church have been trying for the last fifty years to pull down the Vedapuri Iswaran temple; former Governors said that this was the country of the Tamils, that they would earn dishonour if they interfered with the temple, that the merchants would cease to come here, and that the town would decay; they even set aside the king’s order to demolish the temple; and their glory shone like the sun. ... Before M. Dupleix was made Governor, and when he was only a Councillor, all the Europeans and some Tamils used to say that if he became Governor, he would destroy the Iswaran temple. The saying has come to pass. ... [The Governor] has taken advantage of this time of war to accomplish his longstanding object and demolish the temple. ... I cannot describe the boundless joy of the St. Paul’s priests, the Tamil and pariha converts, Madame Dupleix and M. Dupleix. In their delight, they will surely enter the temple, and will not depart, without breaking and trampling under foot the idols and destroying all they can. ... Then Father Coeurdoux of Karikal came with a great hammer, kicked the lingam, broke it with his hammer, and ordered the Coffrees and the Europeans to break the images of Vishnu and the other gods. Madame went and told the priest that he might break the idols as he pleased. He answered that she had accomplished what had been impossible for fifty years, that she must be one of those Mahatmas who established this religion [Christianity] in old days, and that he would publish her fame throughout the world. ... I can neither write nor describe what abominations were done in the temple... All the Tamils think that the end of the world has come. ... The wise men will say that the glory of an image is as short-lived as human happiness. The temple was destined to remain glorious till now, but now has fallen.
    • The Private Diary of Anand Ranga Pillai translated from Tamil by Rev. J. Frederick Price and K. Rangachari, Madras, 1904. Quoted from Goel, S. R. (2016). History of Hindu-Christian encounters, AD 304 to 1996. Chapter 7 ISBN 9788185990354 [1]
    • About the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple which was the principal place of worship for the Hindus of Pondicherry. The Jesuit missionaries built the Church of St. Paul adjacent to it and obtained an order from the King of France that the Hindu temple should be destroyed.
  • A careful study of the monuments and lithic records in Madras reveals a great destruction caused by the Portuguese to Hindu temples in the sixteenth century A.D. The most important temple of Kapaleeswara lost its ancient building during the Portuguese devastation and was originally located near the Santhome cathedral… A few Chola records found in the Santhome cathedral and bishop’s house refer to Kapaleeswara temple and Poompavai. A Chola record in fragment found on the east wall of the Santhome cathedral refers to the image of Lord Nataraja of the Kapaleeswara temple. The temple was moved to the present location in the sixteenth century and was probably built by one Mallappa… A fragmentary inscription, twelfth century Chola record, in the Santhome church region refers to a Jain temple dedicated to Neminathaswami.
    • Dr. R. Nagaswamy, Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu and Director of the Indian Institute of Culture in Madras. ‘Testimony to Religious Ethos’, The Hindu 30 April 1990. Quoted from Goel, S. R. (2016). History of Hindu-Christian encounters, AD 304 to 1996. Chapter 21 [2]
    • About the Kapaleeswara temple history and controversy of Mylapore, Chennai. The original temple structure is said to have been destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century AD. The famous San Thome Basilica was then built in the place where the original temple structure stood.

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