From Paganism to Christianity: Transition of the Insular Celts As Seen Through The Archaeological Record
Senior Thesis, Oberlin College, (2011)
From the third century A.D., when the first visible signs of Christianity in the British Isles appeared, until the Middle Ages, when the Christian Church replaced Celtic Religion, Celts most readily accepted Christianity when Christianity adapted to their beliefs, practices, and symbols. Creolization and concepts within cognitive archeology provide the most useful theoretical frameworks for understanding how pagan Celtic art and beliefs intertwined with imported Christianity to form a Celtic version of Christianity. However, scholars must be cautious about historical and personal subjectivity when interpreting ancient artifacts and particularly careful when using “experience” as an analytical tool when studying religion. Despite the many challenges, archeologists and historians have been able to learn about this ancient society through the study of amalgamated artifacts and second hand historical sources that describe the integration of religious practices.
Contact between Christianity and Insular Celtic paganism were initiated before the declaration of Christianity as the official religion of England in 312 A.D. The Gregorian Mission in 596 A.D, which decreed conversion of all pagans to Christianity, as well as the Christian take-over of Ireland by 600 A.D., accelerated the rise of Christianity. Finally, the Christian Church gained control over the Celtic religion by 1100 A.D.