Pnd of the druids

Given the stratified nature of Celtic society, the aristocracy and peasantry' appeared to have little difficulty accepting an ecclesiastical hierarchy, especially since it was structurally similar to the druidic order it was replacing. According to St. I-'iatrick and other clerics, the new clerical order was absorbed into British society, and bishops were accorded the same positions that druid advisors had enjoyed in the courts of the Celtic kings.

However, this smooth transition may be misleading, because it is also argued that the first missionaries, in attempting to impose structures they knew from Gaul or Roman Britain, encountered problems in adapting to the specific requirements of the non-Romanized Celts. In the Romanized world, territorial diocese mirrored Roman administrative structures (naturally, since this is where they had grown from). So a territorial diocese in Gaul or Britain had a hierearcical (govermental) structure of bishop, senior clerics, and priests. And the diocese reported upward, finally to the Church in Rome.

The chronicle of a smooth transition to Christianity in Celtic Britain and in Ireland comes from the accounts of Roman Christian writers, who would want to suggest that the conversion was an easy process. But even as late as the mid-sixth century, it appears that there was no large-scale ecclesiastical structure covering all the Celtic territories. Instead, the Church was linked to individual ruling houses, with each religious center enjoying the patronage of a chief or king. In this way, the structure was more akin to the older druidic order than to the Christian Church elsewhere in Europe.

During the sixth century a new form of religious center arose: the monastic church. These were free from the territorial tethers of the ecclesiastical church, but still relied on the patronage of the Celtic rulers in whose lands the monastery was founded. Many also developed secondary sites and lands that remained linked to the main site for administrative purposes. This created a new layer of Church structure, with its own agenda.

Below: Although built in 1142 in the Norman era. the tiny church at Kilpeck, Herefordshire. England, displays extensive carvings inside and above the south door which are purely Celtic in design. Outside, along the top of the wall and around the apse. top. carvings of most un-Christian looking Celtic demons perch beside human and animal representations.

Chapter I I — CELTS AND CHRISTIANITY

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