Saintly orders

One of the leading monasteries in Ireland was at Kildare, founded by St. Brigid, while other Celtic saints were linked to the foundation of other orders; St. Brendad at Clonfert, St. Comgall at Bangor (County Down), St. Carthach at Lismore, and St. Ciaran at Clonmacnoise. St. Columba founded no less than three monasteries, at Derry, Durrow, and the great monastic center on Iona in Dal Riada.

By the mid-sixth century, many monasteries provided havens for Celtic bishops, who became

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increasingly eager to associate themselves with the new religious movement. When a bishop took up residence in a monastery, his duties were distinct from those of the abbot. In this way, the monastic movement came to dominate Celtic Christianity, until by the end of the century the Celtic Church was wholly monastic.

There was no overall structure. A number of independent monasteries were founded from a mother-house, and monasteries often had satellite bodies that owed allegiance. Sometimes, these were small monasteries in their own right, but often they were just a collection of small cells of solitary monks, who preferred isolation to life in a larger foundation. The monks maintained a grueling discipline, with a restricted vegetarian diet, cold-water bathing, and even self-inflicted castigation, although the nature of monastic life differed from place to place. This lack of uniformity also manifested itself in the nature of mass and the manner in which liturgical services were carried out.

This lack of unity and the absence of a central common practice created a uniquely apolitical dogma, but would also help to bring about the ultimate subjugation of the Celtic Church to the centralized, political structure of the medieval Church of Rome.

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