How an Obscure Messianic Sect Became a World Religion

179 TUTOR: Maggie Guillebaud (BA Hons)

This course examines the extraordinary story of how an obscure Jewish Messianic sect became a religion that came to dominate the Western known-world in a remarkably short time. You will discover how Christianity was aided by the powerful Roman Empire once Constantine had proclaimed religious tolerance in 313. As the Empire split into East and West and declined, so the Church had to define itself against the encroaching chaos. Hostility, persecution, bloodthirsty Emperors and heroic self-sacrifice are all part of the remarkable story of these early years.

2 AM
AM course

Course Notes

Monday - the earliest recorded history of the church, including Paul's travels to the infant churches in Asia Minor and Rome. We find Josephus, the contemporary Jewish historian at the time, providing fascinating insights into this Jewish Messianic sect, including an interview with some of Jesus' cousins. We look at some of the earliest Councils of the Church where such things as the Canon and creeds were fixed, and trace the course of the faith as it spread round the Mediterranean and into North Africa.

Tuesday - travels with Egeria, a C4th nun who travelled to the Holy Land and wrote eye-witness accounts of all she saw for her sisters back home. This was the time when Helena was completing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, 2000 years later still a major site of pilgrimage. Egeria's diary was known of through subsequent accounts of her writings, but a copy of the original was only found in the C19th in a convent in Arezzo. Her style is lively and engaging, with an acute eye for detail. A little-known gem of ancient history.

Wednesday- Titular Churches in Rome. These numbered 12 in all, the first known gathering places of Christians during the first 300 years of Christianity in Rome. They were originally house churches, or groups of believers who met regularly for worship in each others' houses and worked in their local communities amongst the poor and dispossessed. The first is mentioned in Acts. Many of them now lie buried deep beneath the magnificent basilicas we see today, for example St Peter's. A fascinating but little-explored corner of ancient Christian history.

Thursday - Into the North - the story of how it took so long for Scandinavia to adopt Christianity compared to the rest of Europe, namely nearly 1000 years. The Sami were not converted until the C19th. The Vikings who controlled the area were particularly resistant to the Christian message. We shall look at their culture and find out how finally they were convinced. The countries considered include the present Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland.

Friday - mostly a guided discussion based on what we have learned during the week. I intend to broaden the discussion out as to the position of Christianity globally today, providing a quick over-view and seeking parallels, if they are to be found, of how things might develop in the light of how the early Church entered and triumphed in a pre-Christian world.

All talks will be lavishly illustrated and time will be set aside each day for discussion and reflection. No prior knowledge of ancient Christian history required, and all terms will be carefully explained.

Course Tutor

Maggie Guillebaud

BA Hons

About Maggie


Maggie has worked as a priest at Salisbury Cathedral for over 16 years following a late vocation. Before that she worked primarily in the arts sector, notably as a member of the Arts Council, where she chaired Education, and as Chair of South West Arts. She also chaired an NHS Trust and was for many years on the Bench, amongst many other public appointments. She lectures on art for the Cathedral, and in the recent past on early Church history at Sarum College, and Ecumenical Institute in the Close which also trains future priests. Early church history is her particular area of interest.


Gift vouchers

Request a brochure

Summer School Entertainment 2022


Meet the Tutor: Dr Susan Brockman

This summer, Dr Susan Brockman will travel all the way from New York to join our...

More News

All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM