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This celebrated missionary has a place in the present work, not because he was a saint, but because of the influence he exercised over the civilisation of Scotland, and even of Northumbria, that is, of all the English counties north of the Humber and the Mersey. In this, as in many other instances to be hereafter adduced, our business is with the subject rather than the man: in other words, the former alone has led to the selection ; and for that reason we shall have often to insert matter that, were the individual only concerned, might justly be deemed extraneous. But even of the individual, no characteristic features, provided they bear a genuine impress, shall be omitted ; for so closely allied is the person with the action, often no less so than cause with effect, - that the description of the one

12

VOL. I.

B

must frequently be indispensable to the knowledge of the other.

Though the introduction of Christianity into North Scotland and Northumbria is the most prominent result of St. Columba's labours, we should never lose sight of the fact that they led, in a degree nearly equal, to the civilisation of those regions. The missionary of the middle ages was not merely the preacher, or the administrator of the sacraments ; he was the herald of literature, of science, and of human improvement in every shape. To every monastery or cathedral a school was immediately attached, and the children of the more reputable pagans were invited to attend. Parents on whom religious considerations were lost were yet profoundly impressed by the superior knowledge of the missionary; and resolved that their sons should acquire the useful arts, even at the risk of conversion to the new faith. Barbarians as they were, they were sufficiently alive to the improvements introduced by the missionary in reference to those arts, especially to architecture, agriculture, mechanical inventions, surgery, and medicine. Hence it was that after the arrival of St. Augustine Britain, so great a change was effected in the manners, habits, and condition of the people. By the rule of St. Benedict the practice of agriculture was binding on the monks; and we know that it was equally so, whatever the precise rule to which they were subjected, on the monastic missionaries of Ireland: no wonder, therefore, that in these islands so necessary an art should flourish beyond all former precedent. The most barren districts — and such invariably were those conferred on the church even exhibited a fertility which at first struck the natives with astonishment, but which immediately gave way to emulation. Plentiful harvests were observed to rise from the fens of Lincolnshire, and to wave on the desert coast of Northumberland, which had hitherto bid defiance to cultivation. In architecture the improvement was no less obvious ; while the roads constructed through the deepest marshes, and

Nor were

the bridges thrown over the most rapid streams, attested
in other respects the benefits of civilisation.
these laudable results confined to Britain. The bio-
graphers of the early Benedictines in Italy, Gaul, and
Spain have shown what degree of improvement was
introduced even into the arts inculcated by Roman
experience. In Germany, Mabillon has proved how
deeply the inhabitants were indebted to the mis-
sionaries who, about the age of St. Boniface, carried
civilisation from this country to that vast region. The
Scandinavian historians have recorded the same results.
In short, turn our eyes wherever we may, the same
progress from barbarism to improvement is apparent,
not in the necessary arts merely, but in the intellectual.
Nowhere is this noble effect more visible than in these
islands. Well, therefore, might Dr. Johnson term:
Iona “ the luminary of the Caledonian region, whence
savage clans and roving barbarians derived the bene-
fits of knowledge and the blessings of religion.” The
fact is more extensively true than that great writer
himself expected, for he was not profoundly versed
in our ecclesiastical antiquities. For this reason we
shall regard St. Columba ‘and his associates with a
reverence which we should refuse to personages merely
historic ; inasmuch as there can be no just comparison
between the regenerator and the destroyer of a people,
between the enlightened missionary and the conqueror.

The Christian religion was introduced into Ireland 432. by St. Patrick, in the year 432. It has, indeed, been asserted by some modern writers, that the Gospel had flourished in the island before the arrival of that missionary ; and one proof adduced is, that Pelagius and his disciple Celestius were both Hiberni-Scoti, or Irishmen. But this would be no proof, even assuming that they were Irishmen; for both passed their

* Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica (passim). Lingard, Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, p. 144, &c. "Europe during the Middle Ages (CAB. Cyc.),

Mabillon, Acta ss ad Sæculum iii. (De Litterarum Studiis per Benedictinos in Germania; necnon De Cultu Soli Germanici per Benedictos). Johnson, Journey to

iv. p. 6.

Ordinis

Benedicti, Præ'atio

the Western Isles,

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