Celtic Christianity referrers to the early Christians’ characteristics exhibited by the British Isles inhabitants between the 4th and 6th century. As early as the 4th century, Celtic religion was the most popular religion across Europe. Since its inception, the Celtic religion has persistently opposed the Roman Catholic Church and its influences. Overtime, the perception about Celtic Christianity has varied as the religion continuously changed.
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However, Celtic Christianity has distinctively remained opposed to the Roman Catholic Church influences. There were several controversial believes held by Celtic believers in the middle Ages. Such believes included the denial of the existence of the Pope and respect to the nature. In the 19th century, scholars noted that the Celtic religion was an organised Christian denomination of its time that significantly united the Celtics together and prevented the Roman Catholic from interfering with their practices.
However, modern scholars have disputed most of the Celtic religions’ doctrines terming them as problematic and lacking substantive evidence. Although the British and the Irish had different cultures and methods of worships, there existed a few similar traditions between both groups.
The differences were because of the geographical diversity of the Irish and the British populations. Some scholars, on the contrary, suggest that the British and the Irish Christian populations were never completely against the Roman Catholic Church and the pope’s authority. Some of the middle Ages literatures depict the Celtic religious and cultural values as neither pro-women nor nature friendly as earlier stated.
Scholars and theologies have used the Lindisfarne Gospels overtime to analyse the history, growth, and influence of the Celtic religion in the eastern and northern parts of Europe. The book is a product of the ancient book painting. It has survived through several centuries. Every record known on the manuscript was derived from the original manuscript written in Anglo –Saxon in the year 960.
The manuscript was written by a cleric named Eldred. Eldred wrote the Lindisfarne to honour bishop Cuthbert’s death. However, some scholarly articles suggest that the book was meant for ceremonial purposes and celebration of Gods’ words through religion.
Overtime, scholars have identified the three paradoxes of the Celtic religion, which thrived and influenced the spread of their conception on the early Europeans. From the Lindisfarnes gospels, the paradoxes can be identified as conversions in Christian pre-past, resolute asceticism and the geographical setup, which dictated the middle Ages way of life.
The setup and writing styles of the Lindisfarnes gospels illustrate that the tremendous changes in Christians’ past rather than the impacts of the new cultural values from the Romans societies significantly influenced the Celtic religion between the 5th and 6th century. From the Lindisfarnes gospels and other historical books, the growth and influence of the Celtic Christianity in both Britain and in Ireland can be deduced.
As early as the 2nd century, the Christianity had spread as far as Britain. In the 4th century, religion was legalized under the rule of Constantine. However, seven years later, the emperor withdrew the legislation in favour of his personal interests. At the beginning of the 7th century, Christianity across Europe underwent tremendous changes under the Gregorian mission.
Pope Gregory had mandated a taskforce of clerics to convert all the Anglo-Saxons in Britain to Christians and build them new churches. In Europe, the pope intended to delegate cleric Augustine as the leader of all the archdioceses in southern Britain. Afterwards, Augustine ambitiously attempted to convince the Anglo-Saxons to adopt the Roman’s practices and conducts in their religion.
He allowed the natives to maintain their customs on the condition that they would observe the Roman Easter calendar, reform their baptism rites and join the clerics in their evangelism. The Britons were angered in this regard and rejected Augustine’s leadership and endeavours leading to the Battle of Chester where most British clergies were massacred.
Later, The Romans realised that the Celtics’ believes and customs were the main source of the conflicts across the Anglo- Saxon kingdoms. In this regard, they plotted systems for abolishing them. The most conflicting customs were the Easter rituals and calendar, which continuously fuelled the disagreements and enmity between the two groups. Despite the antagonism between the two groups, Augustine never informed the pope of these controversial issues.
Christianity had reached Ireland by the early 5th century. At that time, Ireland was part of the great Roman Empire. However, Saint Patrick’s missionaries had established their churches and villages in the region before the Roman Catholics. In these villages, clusters of Christians resided together while ministering to the natives. Before the introduction of Christianity, the Irish community constituted of illiterates.
The arrival of the Christian clerics significantly reduced illiteracy among the Irish population. During the 6th century, the Irish monks established Christian learning institutions in the northern England. With the establishment of these institutions, the Celtic religion became considerably popular in the northern parts of England and its neighbouring kingdoms.
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The monasteries were responsible for the development of several literature manuscripts used during the early Christian age in England such as the Lindisfarnes gospels. Eventfully, the monastic structure became effective in the society so that the ties between the political rulers and monasteries improved leading to the secularisation of the Celtic Christianity in the region.
The Lindisfarnes gospels illustrate the Celtics’ culture of “love for nature.” In his manuscript, the author demonstrates the respect that the Celtic religion and practices accorded to the environment through the skilful decorations and imagery in his work. The manuscript pages were made from natural resources such as calf’s skins. Similarly, the books’ decoration exhibited the beauty of nature as a whole. In so doing, the book became a beacon of spiritual knowledge and a cultural model to the early Celtic religion. Generally, the Celtics relation with the nature has been cited as one of mutual co-existence between man his environment in the history of Europe.
Historical records confirm that the Celtic community depended on trade as their main source of livelihood. The Lindisfarnes gospels indicate that initially, the illiterate population perceived the Atlantic waterways as “the end of the earth.” However, with the arrival of the Christian education, people became enlightened and realised the usefulness of the waterways. Afterwards, the Atlantic waterways linked several wealthy kingdoms in the region. Archaeological records illustrate the intermingling of their religious and cultural values.
For instance, during the burial rituals, human and animal parts were mixed together as illustrated by the archaeological artefacts found in the temples and several other religious buildings. Similarly, the influence of the Celtic arts is eminent in the Lindisfarne Gospels. Using portraits, the author paints a picture of the ancient Celtic influences. The portrait of saint Mathews and byzantine arts illustrate the Greek influence on the Celtic cultures. This is evident from the use of Greek names and the use of Greek clothing styles in the portraits.
The Lindisfarne Gospels author used imagery to portray the impacts of foreign evangelism in the Celtic territory. The Saint Mathew’s portrait illustrates his holiness despite some scholar arguing that the portrait illustrates Jesus Christ’s holiness. According to the author, the portrait portrays the significance of evangelism in spreading the word of God.
The significance of the Atlantic waterways played a significant role in the growth and spread of the Celtic Christianity across northern England and its neighbouring kingdoms as illustrated by the Lindisfarne gospels.
The Celtics used the sea route to conduct trade and spread their ministries across Europe. The 5th century marked the climax of the Celtic power in the region. Their languages and cultural practises considerably spread across the continents. During this era, most European nations considered the Celtic administrative system as powerful compared to the Roman and the Greek systems.
During this era, the Church of England managed to declare itself as separate unit from the Church of Rome. This was fuelled by the protestants desire to break away from popes authority. The Christian Protestant and pagan groups faced numerous challenges in both the religious and political aspects. Several factors contributed to the Protestants’ reformation.
These included the rise and spread of nationalism, increased awareness of the Bible, creation of the printing press and increased number of scholars across Wales, Britain, and Ireland. Scholars claim that the protestant writers of that time falsely popularised the ideas of the indigenous British Christianity as opposed to the Roman church ideas and encouraged the people to embrace the Celtic religion.
The Romantic Movement further prejudiced the Celtic Christianity principles and ideas. In the 18th century, the Celtics retained their spiritual believes and values even after their influence had been weakened by the authoritative Roman rulers. In the 21st century, the modern churches merged the Celtic religious concepts with the neo-pagans ideas resulting in several aspirations by some conservative churches to revive the Celtic religion.
Recently conservative Celtic Christians have established an international centre for revival, which many Celtic pilgrims visit. The site has been turned into an historical attraction as more people get to know about the Lindisfarne gospels.