Irish Scholarship and Missionary Work

       This period was easily the most magnificent in Ireland's long history in terms of recognizable accomplishment. Accredited historians have come to a general agreement that it was these Irish scholars who kept the lamp of civilized learning burning brightly, while those of Rome and Byzantium dimmed to a flicker.

       Nor did the Irish scholars content themselves with mere acts of knowledge preservation, for whenever the heathen storm raging over Europe subsided in the least, they would come pouring out of the island's monasteries and launch their fragile ships in an easterly direction. To all parts of Europe they travelled, urged on by Christian zeal and the knowledge that they alone were the repositories of civilized life and learning.

       The magnificent Columcille, who was by birth a king but chose to become a saint, was only one of Ireland's leaders in missionary work. From his fortress on the island of Iona went scores of teachers and preachers who ultimately restored Christianity and civilization to the continent. Clement went to Gaul, where he was to tutor Charlemagne, Boniface went to the land that became Germany, and Gall became the Apostle of the Swiss. These are just a few of the better known ones, but there were so many it is probably unfair to name any without naming them all. Let it suffice to note that in Germany today 55 Irish saints are venerated, 45 in France, 30 in Belgium, 13 in Italy and 8 in Scandinavia.

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Courtesy of Time-Life Books