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Christianity Comes to Britain

History of Britain, History of christianity. The Romans had brought their own religious customs with them to Britain, and built temples in which to whorship their gods. Apart from their loathing of the Druids, they were tolerant of the islander's beliefs. As in so many other things, the men of Rome and the people of Britain went their own, differen, ways.

But one morning in 313 an event occured that was to affect the whole world, and which, eventually, enabled Romans and Britons to worship side-by-side. The Roman Emperor Constantine I was converted to Christianity.

The Lindisfarne Gospels
The Lindisfarne Gospels were
copied out by hand at the and
of the 7th century. The task
took the monks 23 years. The
bishop supplied the decoration.
Inevitably, word of this reached the empire's outposts; and, just as certainly, the old gods were put on one side. The message of Christianity was universal. The Briton, too, accepted it.

But when the Romans withdrew, the Barbarians brought their pagan gods with them. For 150 years. Christianity was driven underground. When it returned, the message travelled across the land from the north and from the south.

During one of theur raids on Wales, the Irish had snatched a Christian boy named Patrick from his home near the River Severn. Patrick was sold as a slave.

He learned the Irish language; and, some years later, he escaped to England. He studied to become a priest. In 432, the Pope ordered him back to Ireland as a missionary. Within ten years, Patrick had converted very nearly the whole island.

King Cnut
King Cnut was a man of great
power-and of wisdom, too. He
believed in good relations with
 the church (a change from his
unruly ancestors). Here, he is
seen giving an altar cross to a
recently built abbey near
Thanks to his work, it was an Irishman who took Christianity to Scotland. In 561, a monk named Columba landed on the island of Iona off the wetern coast.

He built a monastery, and taught the gospel to the picts. From this base, the new faith spread across Scotland and southwards into England. Seventy years later, monks from Iona were preaching in Northumberland, where they built a monastery a Lindisfarne.

Christianity returned to southern England in 597, when Pope Gregory sent forty monks, led by a man named Augustine, from Rome. These men were afraid.

They had heard such tales of British brutality that travelled very far, they asked Augustine to return and beg Gregory to release them from their task. But Gregory refused and the journey continued.

They were fortunate. They landed on Thanet. As it happened, the ruler of Kent, King Ethelbert, had a Christian wife. He told them to go ahead with their work; and even offered them lodgings in his capital at Canterbury. Some while later, he himself became converted.

During the year of their missions, Augustine and his monka baptised ten thousand people.

England in the reign
Right : England in the reign of King Alfred was a land divided between the Danes and the men of Wessex. King Alfred could never rest easy. He built a navy and fortified his towns against the day when war would come. The arrows show the Danish and Viking invasion routes in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Left : The prow of an excavated Viking ship. It somehow expresses the vessel's qualities of strength, sea-worthiness, and speed.

Read previous : King Arthur and Seven Kingdoms or, the next article : Warriors from the North
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