Early Christianity in Ireland

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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Composed from the Book of Kells



SECTION 1. Christianity before St. Patrick's Arrival.

Letter T
HAT there were Christians in Ireland long before the time of St. Patrick we know from the words of St. Prosper of Aquitaine, who lived at the time of the event he records. He tells us that, in the year 431, Pope Celestine sent Palladius "to the Scots believing in Christ, to be their first bishop": and Bede repeats the same statement. Palladius landed on the coast of the present County Wicklow, and after a short and troubled sojourn he converted a few people, and founded three little churches in that part of the country. One of them is called in the old records Cill Fine or Cill-Fine-Cormaic [pronounced Killeena-Cormac], where a venerable lonely little cemetery exists to this day, three miles southwest from Dunlavin in Wicklow, and is still called by the old name, slightly changed to Killeen Cormac. There must have been Christians in considerable numbers when the Pope thought a bishop necessary; and such numbers could not have grown up in a short time. It is highly probable that the knowledge of Christianity that existed in Ireland before the arrival of Palladius and Patrick (in 431 and 432, respectively) came from Britain, with which the Irish then kept up constant intercourse, and where there were large numbers of Christians from a very early time. However, the great body of the Irish were pagans when St. Patrick arrived in 432; and to him belongs the glory of converting them.

Killeen Cormac

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