11. A Goslar Christmas in 1052


If you choose to tuck into turkey, or another meat, on Christmas Day spare a thought for some Goslar vegetarians in the mid-eleventh century. Because of their vegetarianism (or, more correctly, the religious beliefs from which the lifestyle choice resulted) 1052 became their very last Christmas. The chronicler Herman of Reichenau tells us that, whilst celebrating the festive season in the German town, the Emperor Henry III commanded “that certain heretics were to be hanged on a gibbet, who among other wicked and erroneous doctrines detested the eating of all animal flesh, like the Manichean sect”.[1] Manichaeism was a dualistic religion founded by Mani in the third century, arising from a Judaeo-Christian environment.[2] Those who achieved the religion’s high status of Elect had to refrain from eating any meat as one of the rules of their discipline, as well as eschewing wine and practicing celibacy. Judged to be heretical by the Christian church, followers of Manichaeism or any of the neo-Manichaeism sects were often persecuted and, as at Goslar, paid the ultimate price for observing their doctrines.

By Emily Ward


[1] Translation from Herman of Reichenau, Swabian Chronicles, ed. I. S. Robinson (Manchester, 2008), p. 90.

[2] Samuel N. C. Lieu, ‘Christianity and Manichaeism’, in Augustine Casiday and Frederick W. Norris (eds.), The Cambridge History of Christianity (Cambridge, 2007), ii, pp. 279-295.

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