the weblog of Alan Knox

Patrick and Celtic Christianity

Posted by on Mar 17, 2008 in church history | 5 comments

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would write a little about my fascination with Celtic Christianity. This post will be very short, because I don’t know much about Celtic Christianity. However, I am still fascinated by the early history of Christianity in the British Isles.

So, what fascinates me about this facet of history? Well, St. Alban (200’s – 300’s AD), Palladius (400’s AD), and St. Patrick (400’s AD) were among several famous early Christians in Roman Britain. But, we do not know exactly when the gospel was introduced to the British Isles. What we do know is very interesting, especially the story of St. Patrick, his captivity and transport to Ireland, and his return to Ireland as a missionary.

But, there is something about early British Christianity that is even more fascinating to me. Sometime around 596 AD, Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine (NOT Augustine of Hippo) to Britain. When he got there, he found that Christianity was already present in Britain, but it was different from Roman Christianity. King Ethelbert of Canterbury was eventually persuaded that the Roman brand of Christianity was better than the English brand, and he and his subjects were “converted” and baptized into Roman Christianity.

I have always wanted to study this early period of British Christianity. If Christianity was introduced very early in Britain (Tertullian mentions Britain around 200 AD), and if Britain was cut off from Roman Christianity, then it would be interesting to study the Christianity that developed in Britain from around 400 to 600 AD and compare that the Christianity that developed in Rome from the same time period.

If anyone knows a good book on this subject, please let me know. I’d love to read it during one of my school breaks.

By the way, speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, I was excited to see some Southern Baptist proudly displaying their “green” here: Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-18-2008


    This topic sounds interesting to me, too. My selfish hope is that you find a good book about it, read it, and then post what you have learned.

  2. 3-31-2008


    I would need to do a bit of homework to look up the sources where I learned about this, but my impression of my study of Spanish church history is very similar to what you write here about British church history. They did go through a couple of centuries where the Arians had the ascendancy, though. The interesting thing is that the Spanish church never did really become “Roman Catholic” until a rather late date. I have also heard that Priscillian, the Spanish bishop who was condemned as a heretic, may have actually been falsely accused, and that his actual views may have been quite close to evangelical ones. If any one with a better knowledge of church history has any more information on this, I would be very interested to know about it.

  3. 4-10-2008


    Celtic Christianity! What a great topic. And I know you were focusing on Irish Celtic Christianity because of St. Patrick’s Day (yes, I am a little behind in blog reading), but there are more elements involved in Celtic Christianity. For example, here in the western part of France, there are the Bretons who also are taken into account when talking about Celtic Christianity.

    This has inspired me though, and I MAY (can’t guarantee I will) put up a post talking about the other Celtic nations and culture.

  4. 4-11-2008


    I hope you are able to write that post. I’m looking forward to it.


  5. 4-22-2008

    I’ll try to work on it and when I get it up I’ll let you know. Thanks