Celtic spirituality

Please bookmark this module:   Facebook   Twitter


 Columba, Holy Island

The Christ faith first spread in the British Isles among the Celtic peoples. But how did the Celts (peoples from central Europe) come to be in Britain in the first place? And what happened to the Celtic version of the Christian faith in Britain? This page explains.

The pagan Celts occupied central and western Europe for many centuries before the time of Christ, but Roman troops eventually pushed them to the western fringes of the continent. They settled in Britain, Ireland and Gaul (France).

It was among the Celtic peoples that Christianity first came to Britain.

When the Roman forces withdrew from Britain around the year 410, Christianity nearly died out. However, Christ-like personalities established loving Christian communities to which multitudes responded. They included St Martin (in France), St Ninian (in Scotland), St Patrick and St Brigid (in Ireland), St Illtyd, St Samson and St David (in Wales and Brittany).

In the 6th century, Ireland became “a land of saints and scholars” and sent out “wanderers for the love of God” across Europe. St Columba established a monastery on the island of Iona in Scotland.

At the same time, pagan Anglo-Saxons (the English) colonised what is now England. In the year 631, St Aidan was sent from Iona to evangelise them from the island of Lindisfarne, on England’s north-east coast. Lindisfarne missionaries won the hearts of the English and reached as far south as London.

The Pope also sent a mission to the English, led by Augustine. In 664, the rules of the Roman mission were laid upon the English, and later upon all Britain and Ireland. Anglo-Saxon Christian leaders trained by Aidan’s mission, notably Cuthbert and Hilda, accepted the new framework but maintained the Celtic spirituality.

This spirituality went underground, but something of its spirit surfaced in the poetry, customs or household prayers in the western Celtic fringes. Many of these poems and prayers were gathered in the 19th century to form a collection known as The Carmina Gadelica.

In 1938, George McCleod, a Church of Scotland minister, rebuilt Iona’s ancient abbey, fulfilling a prophecy of St Columba, and founded the modern Iona Community. Since the 1980s, Celtic-style books of prayers by David Adam, vicar of Lindisfarne, have became widely popular, as have a wave of books about Celtic Christianity, study courses, and Celtic interest networks.

If you would like to know more about Celtic Christianity, click here to visit the e-library at The Centre for the Study of Religion in Celtic Societies at the University of Wales.

Back to the top
Bookmark this page: del.icio.us Favicon  Digg Favicon  Facebook Favicon  Reddit Favicon  StumbleUpon Favicon  Technorati Favicon

Search rejesus

About this module

Early Christianity in Celtic lands had a more natural, less imperial feel than it did elsewhere and it’s spirituality is reviving today. Read here about its history, themes, places and prayers.

This has a strong sense of God’s presence in creation and in everyday life, celebrates God through all the senses, releases creativity, respects both women’s and men’s gifts and values contemplation.

Ray Simpson lives and works on Holy Island in Northumbria. He is the author of Exploring Celtic Spirituality and Celtic Blessings. Our thanks go to him for his contribution to this module.

Categories: Spirituality, Experiential,


Module contents

arrow Introduction to Celtic Christianity

arrow History

arrow Themes

arrow Places

arrow Prayers

arrow Blessings

arrow Books

Related modules

RJ is hiring

Rejesus is looking for new content contributors: artists, writers, thinkers, coders, film makers, creatives. If you have a great proposal get in contact.


arrow Art & image

arrow Articles

arrow Biographical

arrow Downloads

arrow Experiential

arrow How to

arrow Interactive

arrow Interviews

arrow Poetry

arrow Reviews

arrow Seasonal

arrow Sound & vision

If you've found something useful on this site, or use it regularly as a resource, please make a donation here to help us continue.

Latest Blog posts

Time out in the quiet lane

I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom which politicians seem to be able to draw on after they… more

Conkers and faith

Horse chestnut seeds, high vis jacket, goggles, gardening gloves - it means just one thing: the conker season is here.… more

The last thing we need is more hate

What is your first thought when a stranger comes towards you? Is it friendly or fearful, hostile or welcoming? Do… more

Seeing things differently at www.mysticchrist.co.uk

christian prayer christmas faith abolitionist auschwitz celtic foodball text message forgiveness timeline simon taylor photo poverty quiz cross sayings interaction workplace amen jerusalem happiness office slum friar golf veronica theology artist nun animation global warming war poor quotable pdf bishop mother teresa saint nature interview poet exercise course freedom astrophysicist photographer clouds plants mark
This is a static version of the site. Some content is no longer functional.
© rejesus 2002 to 2017
Powered by ExpressionEngine
Design by Embody