Irish Scottish Church

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Celtic Cross in Knock , Ireland

The Irish Scottish Church was Christianity as it was prevalent in Ireland , the Isle of Man and Scotland until the 10th century . The Irish Scottish Church was briefly part of the Latin Church , whose hierarchy and liturgy it only adopted between the 12th and 13th centuries as a result of the Norman conquest of Ireland.

The term Iro-Scottish (also Iro-Scottish ) refers to the Irish tribe of the Scots who spread on both sides of the Irish Sea from the 3rd to 5th centuries . In Latin , Ireland was called Scotia maior . Accordingly, these communities are called Irish Scottish .

Ireland, the Isle of Man and the north of Scotland were an exception in Europe in that they were Christianized without ever having been part of the Roman Empire . In contrast to the rest of Europe, Ireland was also not affected by the migration . These factors, tradition and the political situation that prevented secular or ecclesiastical central power contributed significantly to the shaping of Irish Scottish Christianity. From the heretical movements of the time, Pelagianism and Quartodecimanism came to the region.


The Irish Scottish Christianity shows many traits of the pre-Aizaean Christianity. The descriptions of the details vary from source to source. Frequently mentioned special features are:

  • a hierarchy of patriarchs and metropolitans .
  • the calculation of the date for Easter according to the method used before the first Council of Nicaea .
  • a pronounced monasticism . The monasteries valued Bible study ; Ireland had the reputation of an "island of saints and scholars". For this reason, Charlemagne invited Irish scholars from the "island of the educated" to his court. The peregrinatio of the monks, leaving home for the sake of mission, was considered an ascetic exercise. Monks wore the so-called transverse tonsure , in which the front half of the skull was shaved.
  • Bishops did not have dioceses . There could be several bishops in one place and episcopal ordination was performed by only one bishop.
  • Priests had to pay taxes, do military service and were subordinate to secular justice.
  • There was no tithe ; the monasteries and priests were supported by donations from the clans .
  • The baptism was probably by immersion , but without anointing with subsequent washing of the feet completed.
  • Churches and monasteries were not under the patronage of a saint , but were named after secular donors .

The form of the worship service also differed.


Iro-Scottish Christianity probably originated in the 4th century. When the Romans withdrew from Britain, Christianity had gained a foothold there. In 431 Pope Celestine I sent Bishop Palladius to Ireland as a missionary. He was followed by the Briton Patricius, who is venerated as Saint Patrick . The Celts also had connections with northwestern France ( Brittany ).

The Irish Scottish Christianity thus included Ireland as well as the British Isles and Brittany. It existed in England until 664 ( Synod of Whitby ), in Wales until the 9th century, and on the Isle of Man and Scotland until the 12th century. At the Whitby Synod, the Church of England adopted the Nicaea Easter date and the Roman rite . In the 8th century, Irish Scottish Christianity took over the more efficient organization and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church . In Brittany, the rule of St. Columban was only replaced by the Rule of Benedict in the 9th century . The Irish Scottish coinage was gradually adapted at the beginning of the 12th century ( Synod of Rathbreasail ). The adaptation to the Roman Catholic Church was completed after the conquest of Ireland by Henry II in 1172 (Second Synod of Cashel ).

Iro Scottish Mission

Irish monks worked as missionaries in Scotland and England as early as the 5th century, where they established monasteries. Missionaries brought Christianity to Switzerland , Italy and Galicia , Iceland and the Faroe Islands . Pope Gregory the Great instructed the Irish Scottish missionaries 601 not to destroy the ancient pagan places of worship that were popularly revered . One should sprinkle these places with holy water, erect altars or chapels and embed relics in the altars.

The Irish-Scottish mission began in today's German-speaking area as early as 563 in St. Gallen. As far as we know today, churches and chapels in Germany (for example in Hesse, which was populated by Chatten ) were built by Irish-Scottish monks from the 7th century. St. On the orders of the Pope, Boniface created new dioceses in Germany and expanded, among other things, the diocese of Mainz , whose bishop he became around 745.

Places of activity on the continent

Examples of important sites of the Irish Scottish Mission are

Significance for the continental cultural history

Our Lady with Child, book illumination in the Book of Kells

In addition to the missionary importance of the Irish Scottish mission for mainland Europe, it also had an impact on its art and philosophy . The Irish monasteries , which were not destroyed by the great migration turmoil, preserved many ancient manuscripts . As early as the 7th century they had a highly developed book illumination , from which z. B. the Book of Lindisfarne and the Book of Kells emerged . As a result of the Irish Scottish Mission, these manuscripts spread to mainland Europe, where the scriptorias of the Luxeuil and Corbie monasteries enjoyed a good reputation as early as the 8th century. The Carolingian renaissance started out from these scriptorias .

The writings of Alcuin contributed significantly to the transmission of Latin education in the Frankish Empire , which was preserved in Ireland and England ; The philosophical works of Johannes Scotus Eriugena from the 9th century should also be mentioned.

The cultural influence of the “ Schottenklöster ”, in which Irish monks actually lived, for example on the cities of Würzburg, Regensburg or Vienna, is still evident today in the work of German-Irish friendship societies. The most important work of art in this context is probably the Schottenportal of the Regensburg Schottenkirche with its 144 figures grouped around Christ . In Vienna, the Schottenstift , actually the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of the Scots , testifies to the work of the Irish Scottish monks.

Attempts at resuscitation

Today's communities that refer to the Irish Scottish Church, such as the Celtic Orthodox Church or the Celtic Catholic Church , are newly founded. They are mainly active in the British Isles, France and North America .

Iroschottic elements can also be found in some ecumenical communities such as the Iona Community these days .

Iroschottish spirituality in music

Numerous contemporary composers set blessings from the Irish Scottish tradition to music:

  • James Moore (* 1951): An Irish Blessing ("May the road rise to meet you"), 1987
  • Terence Oldfield (* 1949): Celtic Blessing (1992/2009)
  • Markus Pytlik (* 1966): "May the road bring us together and the wind be at your back" (Irish blessings; GL Cologne 823)
  • John Rutter (* 1945): A Gaelic Blessing
  • Günter Schwarze (* 1949): Old Irish wish for a blessing "May the paths smooth out before your feet" (hymn)

With Pytlik's song, traditions of the Irish Scottish church also found their way into the hymn books of today's German-speaking churches.


Saints who belonged to Celtic Christianity include:

See also


  • Ian Bradley: The Celtic Way. Celtic Christianity in the British Isles, then and now. Knecht Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1996, ISBN 3-7820-0732-8 .
  • Lutz E. von Padberg : Christianization in the Middle Ages. Ed. WBG Darmstadt, licensed edition K. Theiss Verlag Stuttgart, 2006, ISBN 3-8062-2006-9 , section Der irische Sonderweg .

Web links

Commons : Celtic Christianity  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Single receipts

  1. ^ Albert Bruckner , Regesta Alsatiae nevi aevi merovingici et karolini. 496-918. Vol. 1. Strasbourg and Zurich 1949, No. 275, p. 174 f.
  2. See L'Église Orthodoxe Celtique
  3. For example in: Where we praise you, new songs grow - plus , Munich 2018, Strube Verlag VS 4111, ISBN 978-3-89912-211-4 No. 71