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Celtic Christianity part two - founders of Celtic Christianity

The first exposure of the people of Britain to Christianity was in the 1st or 2nd century, but the religion became more popular in the 4th century, after Constantine made it the religion of the Roman Empire.

Saint Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at Saint Benin's Church, Ireland.

The conversion of the Irish began in the 5th century with the arrival of Saint Patrick. Although he is considered the patron saint of Ireland, he was actually from Britain. He was captured when he was 16 and taken as a slave to Ireland but escaped after six years and returned to his family. It is said that he had a dream in which an angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. After being ordained as a priest, Patrick was sent to Ireland to minister to Christians already living there as well as to convert new Christians. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, which was the day he died.

Saint Columba traveled from Ireland to Scotland in the 6th century. He founded a number of abbeys including one on the island of Iona which became an important religious and political institution for many years. The Iona Abbey was destroyed, rebuilt, and added on to through the years. In 1938 the Iona Community was founded and again the abbey was rebuilt, along with other buildings. The present Iona Community is “a Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.” This community is a leading force in the present Celtic Christian revival.

Another important Celtic Christian was Saint Brigid who was born in the 5th century and was the founder of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland. St. Brigid’s cross, which is made from rush or straw, was originally a pagan symbol known as a sun cross. It’s a tradition to make Brigid’s cross on February 1, which is her feast day. It is often hung in Irish kitchens to protect the house from fire and evil.

Saint Columbanus was an Irish missionary from the 6th and 7th centuries who founded a number of monasteries on the European continent.

In the 7th century Saint Aidan founded a monastic cathedral on Lindisfarne, an island off the Northeast coast of England. Lindisfarne is referred to as the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and is a popular spot for retreats today.

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