By the time St. Augustine "officially" brought Christianity to the British Isles in 597 at the behest of Pope Gregory the Great, there was already a well established Christian presence in Wales. In addition, Irish monks such as Aidan, had already brought the Christian message to Scotland and Northumbria.

Augustine attempts to exert control
When Augustine attempted to assert his authority as Archbishop of all Britain in 603, he was told by the Welsh bishops that he had no such authority over them. They were right.

Augustine based his authority on the power of the Pope in Rome, but at that time the Pope's authority was by no means universally accepted, certainly not in Wales! The struggle between Canterbury and Welsh church leaders was one that would continue in many forms down through the following centuries.

One of the major bones of contention between the Celtic Church and the Roman tradition was over the date of Easter. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, many Celtic leaders gave way and accepted the Roman dating.

Through this acquiescence, they essentially acknowledged the supremacy of Rome and the Pope in the Christian world. But Wales did not follow their Celtic brethren in this acquiescence. They clung stubbornly to their own traditions for at least another century.

The next stage in the development of Christianity in Wales was the extraordinary period we call the Age of Saints. Read on ...

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Next: The Age of the Saints