Christianity and the Anglo-Saxons
St. Augustine's mission, the Celtic church in the north, Saxon churches, and the Venerable Bede.
Early Christianity in Britain
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR
Christianity came at the pagan Anglo-Saxons from two directions. The Celtic Church, pushed back into Wales, Cornwall, and particularly Ireland, made inroads in the north from an early base on Lindisfarne Island. The Roman Catholic Church approached from the south, beginning with the mission of St.Augustine to Aethelbert, King of Kent, in 597.
The Celtic and Roman churches, though not incompatible, certainly enjoyed differences of opinion and practice. The Celtic church was ascetic, fervent, based on monastic life, and more loosely organized. The Roman church was more conscious of structure, discipline, and moderation. They also celebrated Easter on different days. To resolve their differences they met at the Synod of Whitby in 664, where the Roman cause triumphed.
The church was a very important force in society; the only truly national entity tying together the different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The early monasteries of Northumberland were vital centres of learning and the arts until they were scourged by the Viking raids of the 9th century.
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