Christianity Arrives In Ireland
Not much factual history is known previous to the arrival of the Christians to Ireland as they had become the first people to actually document historic events here.
By the time of their arrival in Ireland, approx 430AD, the country was dominated by the Celtic culture that had arrived during the Iron Age period. The people in Ireland were druids including the Kings and nobles, a challenge for any Christian.
Who brought Christianity to Ireland?
Many people believe that St Patrick was the one responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Although he made a major impact on Christian Ireland he certainly wasn’t the first to arrive here. St Palladius was the first Christian to arrive in Ireland sent over from Rome by the Pope in 430AD, two years previous to St Patrick’s arrival. St Palladius wasn’t as successful in converting the Irish and Celtic druids to Christianity as St Patrick.
It is believed that Niall Noigíallach, a High King of Ireland, and the Uí Néill dynasty’s were the main factors of Christianity first arriving in Ireland from raiding Britain and Gaul from slaves, mercenaries and merchants which included St Patrick, who was sold as a slave to Ireland at the age of sixteen.
Saint Patrick escaped Ireland 6 years after being kidnapped; he became a priest and then a Bishop. He returned to Ireland after having visions to become a Christian missionary and helped spread Christianity to the people of Ireland.
The monastic movement in Ireland
Christian’s in Ireland become known for their monastic lifestyle, they changed the way Christianity would be taught but also how they lived. They would build monasteries in remote places, away from main villages or towns and they themselves would become the centre of their own community. The monks were extremely intelligent, the spoke and wrote Latin but also had great skills in art as proven with the creation of some of the finest illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. These places of worship help produce many Irish saints who would go to spread the word of the lord throughout Ireland, Europe and in some cases further.
Monks also loved to write and they started recording important events that were occurring in Ireland during their time. They were also known to record stories or ancient folklore that had been handed down to families over generations and some of the stories date back when the Celts had become settled in Ireland. This was extremely important in terms of documents history, without the records from the monks we today would know very little about Ireland its early history.
After Christianity was introduced to Ireland the Irish Church set about re-introducing Christianity to Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire, they set-up religious settlements in France, and Italy. They spread the gospel to places like Germany and beyond where previously the word Christianity had not been heard.
Today Christianity in Ireland is still popular with the majority of the population practising their religious beliefs on a weekly basis or even daily.
Timeline of the Christian period in Ireland
- 378AD - Niall of the Nine Hostages becomes high king of Ireland
- 430AD - Palladius arrives in Ireland to help spread Christianity
- 431AD – The first written record in the Annals of Ulster
- 432AD - St Patrick arrives in Ireland
- 484AD - Kildare Abbey is founded by St Brigid
- 484AD - Killeany monastery is founded by St Enda
- 490AD - St Assicus, converted to Christianity by St Patrick, dies
- 512AD - The Voyage of St Brendan
- 520AD - Clonard Abbey is founded by St Finnian
- 546AD - Columcille builds monastery in Derry
- 561AD – Battle of Culdremna between Columcille and High King
- 563AD – Iona Abbey is founded by Columcille after he flees Ireland
Did you know?
Samhain, which means summers end, was a belief before the rise of Christianity and was a ritual to mark the start of the Gaelic year, although this is debated with historians. It was when Christianity began to increase it was changed to Hallowmac or All Saints day, more commonly known today as Halloween.