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Word Count: 992
5th Century The Rhine and the Danube rivers formed a northern boundary of the empire In earlier times they had stationed soldiers on both sides of the rivers and built walls Gradually the power of the Roman Empire began to decline and the Roman legions could no longer safeguard the Roman frontier More and more of the Germanic tribes crossed the border and occupied large sections of the empire in both N Africa and Europe Due to the constant invasions the once powerful empire that existed disappeared in the West by about the year 500 By this time the rich province of Gaul France had been conquered by the Franks The Visigoths Germanic tribe had invaded Spain In 467 a king of the Ostrogoths another German tribe seized power from the last Emperor in the west and established his own kingdom in Italy In the 7th and 8th centuries a new and more powerful threat came out of the East followers of Muhhamad 570-632 a native of Mecca who had united the warring tribes of Arabia by religious enthusiasm the armies of Islam conquered much of the middle East all of North Africa and most of Spain in less than a century Such great Christian centers as Alexandria Antioch and Jerusalem fell to the Muslims All this made travel and trading dangerous around the Mediterranean Sea The European economy was strangled and Europe was isolated from the East As the Roman Empire disappeared in the West many wondered whether the Catholic Church would also disappear from Western Europe The Barbarian invaders were not Catholics most of them were pagans If the Catholic Church were to survive in Western Europe it would have to evangelize and convert these newcomers to Catholicism That was not an easy task however The church was centered in great cities but the barbarian newcomers lived in the countryside far away from the major centers of Christian life The answer was monasteries
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