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Sunday, 17 January 2010

When did Christianity reach Ireland?

Wonderfully amusing coincidences! My Dissertation on Pilgrimage, is now on its second Chapter [of four - totalling 20,000 words before July 2010] and concerned with Iona and St Columba.

We have serendipitously a quantity of books which relate to pilgrimage, coinage, language, music, art, modes of travel, healing, Crusades, wilderness, 'anthropology', poetry, and of course Bede, and other contemporary accounts. There are marvellous, tottering piles with inserted notes - we both relish this shared fun, and swap stories over our meals!

With modest amounts of reliable information available on early Christianity in this area of Western Europe, there are plenty of questions to be asked - the first logical step was to find out where St Columba - Colum Cille - encountered Christianity. If he was born in the region now Northumbria, and was bringing Christianity to Ireland, was he the first? What about St Patrick? and so on.
Paulinus, sent to "the Christians in Ireland" from Rome at the same time as Germanicus was sent to England, to counter the Pelagian heresies, seems the earliest named individual. But - there were already Christians in Ireland!

While borrowing a book from a friend, he remarked he had been at a dinner party the previous night when the conversation had been on just this subject - When did Christianity reach Ireland! Much amusement!

The answer appears to be that it came from Gaul, to Wales and then to Ireland. Logic backed up by linguistics - as the changes in Irish language, and in Welsh, in response to Latin show up in monastery records.

As ever, a small question leads to fascinating research - and all for the sake of 2 accurate sentences [with citations!]. Very satisfying.

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