THE END OF ROME AND THE BEGINNING OF A NEW WORLD
Saint Patrick (d 463?): the first Evangelist to go outside the Roman Empire
From The Confessio, Patrick's autobiography:
"I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest (that is, his family was Christian) of the village Bannavem Taburniae (probably south of Glasgow). He had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive. I was then about sixteen years of age...."
He spent the next six years as a slave, tending sheep in the mountains of Ireland. It was here that he found his faith in Christ. After 6 years, he escaped from captivity. While describing his escape from slavery, he reveals the terrible breakdown of Pax Romana and the end of 'law and order'. Both Britain and Gaul were wealthy parts of the Roman Empire, with farms, estates, and towns throughout. Yet:
"And after three days we reached land, and for 28 days we travelled through deserted country...."
His strongest regret was that in those years as a slave, he had no education, and his Latin was therefore slow and awkward. The next few years of Patrick's life was engaged in becoming a priest. It was Pope Celestine who sent him back to Ireland to be an apostle for that nation. Patrick's Latin was not polished. However, the Christian network he established in Ireland produced within a century the most beautiful and sophisticated of writings. Check the timeline on this site, to see when Patrick lived in relation to the other Celtic saints.
Gildas Sapiens (c 504 to 570): "The Ruin of Britain"
His Concerning the Ruin of Britain (De Excidio Britanniae) is the only substantial source that survives from the time of the Anglo Saxon conquest over Roman Britain. It does not lack for drama and gore!
from Chapter 24:
...So that all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests, and people, whilst the sword gleamed and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press;....
.... Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests, and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained in their countries, when these most cruel robbers were returned home, the poor remnants of our nation.... took arms under the conduct of AMBROSIUS AURELIANUS, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive....
....After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field, to the end that our Lord might this land try after his accustomed manner these his Israelites, whether they loved him or not, until the the year of the siege of Bath-hill, (that is, "Mons Badonicus" and ARTHUR) when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-one years and one months after the landing of the Saxons, and also the time of my own nativity.
And yet neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.
The above is an excerpt from the "Internet Medieval Source Book." It was translated and edited from the Latin by John Allen Giles, and published in 1891 in London, by G. Bell and Sons.
(By the year 600 the Anglo-Saxons had control of most of what is now "England", and the Celtic peoples had been pushed to the hills of Wales and Scotland, and across to Brittany, as well as to Ireland. It is notable that this new world was one where the old Roman cities were deserted and in ruins. This meant that the Celtic Church, unlike the Roman Church, was not built around cities but rather around monasteries in the wilderness, facing the ocean. Abbots and Abbesses were more important than were Bishops.) The Anglo Saxons in Northern England were to be introduced to Christianity in large part from the Celts, intellectual descendents of Saint Patrick.
Saint Comgall (c 510 CE to c 600 CE )and the Bangor Monastery
Bangor, in today's County Down, as you can see on the map of the Celtic World, sits at the southern end of the Irish Sea. Saint Comgall founded an Abbey and Monastery in about 555 CE that provided Christian evangelists throughout the Western World. He was closely associated with Saint Columba of Iona, Saint Columbanus, Saint Brendan, and Saint Moluag of the Isle of Lismore. The man who founded more Scottish churches than any other (aside from Columba), Saint Maelrubha of Applecross, was the son of Comgall's niece, and was educated at Bangor. The "Rule" Comgall developed for his monastery had the reputation of being extremely strict: it was one of incessant prayer, singing and fasting. When Comgall died, there were some 3,000 monks at Bangor
Singing was of great importance to Comgall and Bangor. The monastery had a high choir that sang and prayed for 150 years, 24 hours a day. 1000 of the monks made up the high choir which were divided into 3 and rotated - continuous prayer and praise for 150 years...which must have been, to contemporaries, a stirring representation of Heaven itself.