A History of Great Britain by Robert Balmain Mowat - CHAPTER III - The Conversion of Britain

August 20 2018

Chapter III - The Conversion of Britain

Christianity had no strong hold during the Roman era, despite being adopted as the state religion in 323.

Thus, with the end of the Saxon conquest comes the end of Christianity.

The Welsh, Germanic for “foreigner” and the Irish are the only remaining Christians now. Their interpretation of the Christian religion was based on St. Patrick and the abbots of the many monasteries enjoy almost unlimited power.

The Anglo-Saxons had plundered churches when they arrived and it was only in the 6th century that Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome decided to re-convert the English.

To accomplish this, Gregory appoints a priest, Abbot Augustine, to lead Benedictine monks into England, and they land on the Isle of Thanet (the very east of Kent) in 597.

They quickly convert all of Kent and within 50 years another priest from Gaul, Birinus, converts Wessex.

Northumbria and Mercia are following the Celtic version of Christianity, based on St. Patrick.

The main difference between the two is logistics. While the Roman version is organized and centralized in Rome, the Celtic version is independent and looser. While the Celtic version attracts followers with its enthusiasm, the Roman version eventually wins due to efficiency, and in 664, at the Synod of Whitby, the decision is made to conform to Roman rules and customs.

With the resurgence of Christianity, Mowat also wants to see a resurgence of education. Especially the Celtic church has many scholars. The best example of such is Bede, a Northumbrian priest of the 8th century, who like Aristotles, writes on all known subjects of the day.

Most famously, Bede pens the first work that recognizes the English as people.