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History of Ireland: Early Medieval Ireland, the Land of Saints and Scholars
Updated on June 19, 2013 Marie McKeown moreContact Author High crosses were common in Early Medieval Ireland. They were decorated with scenes from the new Testament which could teach about Christian beliefs. Early Medieval Ireland (500-800 CE) was known as the Land of Saints and Scholars. This was because, once Christianity arrived in Ireland around 400 CE, it spread quickly. By the seventh century there were many monasteries and convents dotted across the island, These holy places were not only sites of prayer but in addition of learning and scholarship.
Within the History of Ireland, this period is remembered as a time when the Irish helped to preserve Christianity and bring it back to the European continent after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Many important texts from ancient Europe were preserved within the monasteries of Ireland, whilst Christianity had retreated from a lot of the continent within the face of pagan invaders from the north and east.
In the seventh and eighth centuries, Irish scholarship was so renowned that students travelled from Britain and Europe to review in Ireland. The monks of the time also took care to record local knowledge and culture, and in this way, many great mythological tales from Ireland were preserved in writing for the primary time.
The monastery of Skellig Michael sat on a rocky island far out at sea. Remains of a Medieval Monastery in Killarney, Ireland. Medieval Irish Monasteries
Monasteries in early Medieval Ireland took many alternative forms. Some, just like the stone huts of Skellig Michael, were more like a hermit’s retreat. Many early Irish Christians believed that by leaving behind the distractions of the world, and going to as remote a place as possible, they might get closer to God.
Other monasteries, convents and abbeys were far more closely woven into the fabric of Irish social and economic life on the time. Among the larger monasteries similar to Trim and Lismore, attracted the growth of small towns around them. The monasteries were focal points not only for prayer, but additionally schooling and medicine. Whiskey was invented by early Irish monks, and was referred to as Uisce Beatha the water of life.
By the eighth century, many Irish monasteries were related to ruling Irish families. The families were often at war with one another, and monasteries weren’t above getting involved within the battles! Saint Columba first travelled to Scotland after he was banished by an area Irish king for his role in a battle. The early Irish monk seems to have mixed their Christianity with the earlier Gaelic culture which held warriors in high esteem.
A tour of the Medieval Monastery of Glendalough
Early Irish Saints
Saint Patrick is essentially the most well-known Irish saint, but in truth Ireland from 500-800 AD gave rise to numerous saints. Except for the famous Saint Patrick, Ireland has two other patron saints Saint Brigid and Saint Columba (also known as Colmcille). Brigid refused her parentswishes for her to marry, became a nun and went on to rule a powerful convent in Kildare. Columba travelled to Scotland, bringing Christianity to the Picts and founding the island-monastery of Iona.
Early medieval Irish sources tell of many more saints and their miraculous deeds. Saint Brendan the navigator may even reached North America on his journeys. Saint Ita is credited with many healing miracles she was even reputed to have healed a man who had been decapitated.
You possibly can read more about the Irish saints of medieval times by clicking on the article title: Early Irish Saints
Opening page to the Gospel of John within the Book of Kells. Example of an Early Medieval brooch from Ireland, with Celtic knot-work designs. Early Medieval Irish Artwork
The best cultural legacy of Early Medieval Ireland is surely the contribution to insular artwork. ‘Insular’ refers back to the unique form of art and aesthetics which developed in Ireland and Britain at the time, a style which was quite different from those of continental Europe. Early Irish monks, mixing Gaelic, Pictish and Anglo-Saxon styles, created illuminated manuscripts of the Christian gospels. These illustrated gospels are rich works of art in themselves. Celtic knot-work designs decorate the edges of the pages, while rich depictions of gospel themes mark the beginning of each chapter.
Probably essentially the most famous example of those illuminated manuscripts is the Book of Kells which may be seen in Trinity College Dublin. The book consists of 340 leaves of high-quality calf vellum. A few of the materials required to make the colored inks the monks used needed to travel from as far away as Asia. The book takes its name from the Abbey of Kells in Ireland, but many scholars believe the manuscript may have been partially or wholly created on the island of Iona on the monastery founded by Saint Columba.
There have been few human figures in this early Irish art. Occasionally animals appeared. Most frequently however, the artwork consisted of extremely intricate designs. These designs weren’t limited to the written page, but also decorated jewelry of the time, and monuments such as the high crosses which frequently stood outside medieval Irish monasteries.
Learn more in regards to the History of Ireland
This article is part of a series, giving an outline of all the principle points in Irish history. Articles which have been written thus far:
First peoples of Ireland
Life in Celtic Ireland
You could even be serious about:
Why historians don’t agree on who the Celts were
The meeting of Queen Elizabeth I and charm O’Malley
History of IrelandHistory of Irish Whiskey
by Marie McKeown12
History of IrelandThe Arbour Hill Memorial Park in Dublin Ireland
by L M Reid7
History of IrelandThe Irish War of Independence and Kevin Barry
by L M Reid10
History of IrelandIrish Female Convicts Transported to Australia
by L M Reid62
History of IrelandRationing in Ireland during World War Two
by L M Reid25
History of IrelandIrish Women and kids in Prisons in Ireland
by L M Reid33
sendingAuthorMarie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland
Pope John Paul came from Poland originally – Ireland can’t take any credit for his achievements.
Glad the hub has been enjoyed by readers to date… 🙂
Milli 5 years ago from USA
Brilliant hub. Glad to now the history of Ireland. Thanks for sharing it.
the girls 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California
Interesting history of Ireland as land of saints and scholars. Pope John Paul II was an Irish soldier too? His exemplary life and extraordinary miracles led him to be canonized shortly after his death.
AuthorMarie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland
Me neither, until I did a bit research! I think she was forgotten a long time ago…
Lawrence Stripling 5 years ago
Great Hub. I never heard Saint Ita and the way she healed someone that was decapitated.