We know very little about per-Christian religious practices in Scotland. The Picts and Celts were per-literary societies. All that has survived are place names. Christianity was introduced to Britain by the Romans, especially after Constantine ended the persecution of Christians--the Edict of Milan (314). The Romans conquered what is now England, but failed to conquer the Celts and Pictish tribes in the North. Instead Emperor Hadrian built a densive wall. Christianity was first brought to Scotland by the Celtic Church, but as in England was evetually overwealmed by the Roman Church. The Reformation converted the vast mahority of Scotts, but Catholcism survived in isolated northern areas, especially the islands like Uist and Barr. Scotland is a largely Protestant country. The Scottish Reformation and Kirk had had a major influence on Western thought. The Scottish Reformsation played an important role in English Reformation. The Scottish enlightment through men like John Locke and Adam Smith had a powerful impact on both England and America, a remarable development for such a small country. Scotland and England were separate countries. The crowns were united, but not the countries. It was the Act of Union that created the United Kingdom, commonlkrefered to as Britain (1707). It was only possible because the English agreed to accept a separate Protestant (Presbeterian) Church of Scotland. There were a few isolated areas of Scotland that remained Catholic. And in the 19th century Irish emigration brought many Irish Catholics to Scotland, many went to Glasgow where there were industrial jobs.
We know very little about per-Christian religious practices in Scotland. The Picts and Celts were per-literary societies. All that has survived are place names. Historians believe that Pictish religion was basically similar to Celtic tribal polytheistic paganism. With the Picts this seems to have involved goddess worship and a devotion to nature. When had unusual status among the Picts. There was profound respect for specific sites deemed to have been of supernatural origins. Here goddess lived or even performed supernatural miracles.
Christianity was introduced to Britain by the Romans, especially after Constantine ended the persecution of Christians--the Edict of Milan (314). The Romans conquered what is now England, but failed to conquer the Celts and Pictish tribes in the North. Instead Emperor Hadrian built a densive wall. We can thus date the history of Christianity in Scotland to the Roman era (about 350 AD) as small numbers of Christians probably appeared beyond Hadrian's all. The Christianization of Scotland began first in the west (Ireland) and then the south (England). The Irish or Celtic Church arrived first. Christianity came to Ireland from Roman Britain. The first contact would have been Irish raiders attacking Roman Britain. Part of the booty the raiders sought was taking Britons captive and selling or using them as slaves (4th century). Some of these captives were probably the first Christains to arrive in Irelans. One of these captives of course was Patrick.
Christianity was first brought to Scotland by the Celtic Church, but as in England was evetually overwealmed by the Roman Church. The enslaved Patrick escaped his captors and returned to Irekand as a missionary a years later. St. Patrick was a major force is Christianizing the Irish who then began Christianizing the Picts and othee people of Scotland. Patrick of course was not the only missionary involved. Records in the Vatican library show that that there enough Christians in Ireland for Pope Celestine to send them a bishop (431). This was Palladius, but we know nothing about him other than his name. The number of Christian converts in Ireland gradually increased and the ancient Celtic religion eventually disappeared. Ultimately the Celtic Church began spreading the Gospel in Scotland, including the Highlands. St. Ninian was the first important missionary beginning the conversion of the southern Picts (early 5th century). This was when the Roman Legions were departing Britain. So the process continued without state authority and at the point of the spear. Pictland was influenced by Iona and the Irish Church. There were also influences from the south--churches in Northumbria. Here the warlike Picts resisted the Romans. And the Romans never conquered Scotland or ventured into Ireland. The Roman Legions Left Britain (411 AD). With the Legions gone (early-5th century), Christianity did not disappear, but existed along with Traditional Celtic religion. It is likely that that the Legions left Britain that some Christians existed in the Scottish Lowlands, even though it was north of Hadrian's Wall. Pope Gregory the Great noticed blond children in Roman slave markets. He dispatched the Augustinian mission to Christianize Britain (596). 【Mayr-Harting, p. 50.】 Within a century, southern Britain had been Christianized.
All of this mean that for a time there were two competing churches in Scotland. the Irish church and the Roman church established in what was becoming England. Columba arrived on Iona (563). St. Kentigern died (612). Pagan Anglo-Saxon tribes invaded and established kingdoms throughout what is now England. The northern kingdom was Northumbria. There is some evidence that it began as a Celtic state, perhaps with Roman beginnings. Paulinus and the Irish cleric Aidan converted Northumbrian ruilers and the population soon followed (630s) which as it bordered Scotland would impact the Picts. As one historian relates, "Where the Roman Empire failed to conquer the Picts, the Christian Church succeeded." 【McHardy. p.93.】 Gradually the Anglo-Saxons were converted. But Northumbria was the northern extent of Anglo-Saxon rule. Then came other pagan invaders. Skye and Iona raided by Vikings. (795). Edward the Great rallied Wessex, preventing the Danes/Vikings from completing the conquest of England. That as in the south, but had significant implications for Scotland. Among other matters, It meant that Christianity would prevail throughout the British Isles. Roman Catholicism dominated Scotland, although the Celtic Church left an imprint.
Then after nearly a millennium came the Protestant Reformation. Protestant teaching reached Scotland only a few years after Martin Luther launched the Reformation. Merchants and the minor nobility were the first to embrace the Reformation, not only for religious reasons, but as a vehicle for independence from both England and France. The Reformation grew in Scotland faster than in England, e think in part because in became associated with Scottish nationalism and also because the royal government in Scotland did not have the same ability to suppress it as did the English monarchy. The work of John Knox and others led to the establishment of the protestant Church of Scotland (1560). The Scottish Kirk would play an important role in the demise of the Stuart monarchy and the rise of democracy. The Stuarts desired to establish absolutist rule as had developed in France. The result in Scotland was the Bishop's War (1639-40). This led to the English Civil War (1642-51).
Scotland and England were separate countries. The crowns were united, but not the countries. It was the Act of Union that created the United Kingdom, commonlkrefered to as Britain (1707). It was only possible because the English agreed to accept a separate Protestant (Presbeterian) Church of Scotland.
Theology tiday is not the major issue it once was. One often ignored aspect of Scottish istory is the degreev to which the theoloogy of the Kirk contributed to our modern world. here have been breakaway Protestant sects leading to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland, but the Church of Scotland has remained strong. And immigration from Ireland has lead to the Catholic Church becoming increasingly important especially beginning in the mid-19th century. Religion became one of the defining elements of Scottish national identity. One important theologicl tennent is predestination. The Kirk preached a strict moralist theology and maintained a kept a tight hold on the loyalties of the Scottish people. Scottish emigrants founded the Presbyterian Church in America. The Kirk played a huge role in daily Scottish life. Calvanists do not accept the more Catholic-influenced Liturgical Year, Scotts did not celebrated Christmas to any extent until after World War II when modern media became more culturally important. Scotland as a result of the intelectual discourse of promoted by Calvinism played an important part in the Englightenment. This was a development of enormous consequence and notably achieved by such a small country. Out of the Kirk and Scottish Enlightenment came perhaps the most important politicalm philospher of modern times--John Locke (1632-1704). The American Constitution is essentially a Lockian document. Another influence coming out of Scotland and the Kirk was Adam Smith (1723-90), the first author to describe the functioning of capitalism--the "hidden hand". Despite the huge influence of Scoltand in political and economic thouht, the rather austere philosophy of the Kirk restrained Scottish contributions to the arts until the 19th century. The direction of the Kirk shifted remarakably in the 19th century, becoming increasingly tolerant with a growing interest in ecumenism.
The Kirk continues to be Scotland's most important religious denomination (42 percent, 2001). There are, however, many other denominations active in Scotland. The most important is Roman Catholcism (16 percent, 2001). The Reformation converted the vast mahority of Scotts, but Catholcism survived in isolated northern areas, especially the islands like Uist and Barr. More importantly, the 19th century Potato Famine that drove the Catholic Irish to America also drove them across the Irish Sea to England and Scotland. Thus a number of Scottish boys do First Communions, but only a few do it wearing kilts. These Scottish boys are doing their First Communion in 2004. Rather than a special suit they are wearing their school uniforms, except the boy wearing a kilt (figure 1). We note an unidentified Scottish boy doing his First Communion, we think in the 1960s. Many Irish immigrants settled in Glasgow, a large industrial city which offered jobs. Thus Catholcism is now strongest in western Scotland. One result has been some of the same sectarian divide as sennin Ulster although on a less intense and violent line. They were notable most prominantely in job discrimination and football fanaticism, but have declined in recent years. Other Protestant demominations are present in smaller numbers. The Scottish Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion. The Free Church of Scotland brokeaway from the Kirk. Islam in recent years has become the largest non-Christian religion in Scotland, although the numbers are much smaller than in England (1 percent, 2001). There are Jewish and Sikh communities, mostly in Glasgow. Many Scotts identify themselves in the Census as having no religion (28 percent, 2001). They were the largest groupin the 2001 Census after the Kirk.
Presbyterianism has thus until recently been a key element in defining what it means to be Scottish. This of course lead to divisions within society as the religious map became more diverse, including the divisions within Presbyterianism. This may have contributed to the decline of organized religion in Scotland, although this is part of an overall decline in Europe as the population becomes increasingly secularized.
Some Scottish boys also used to wear kilts for church, but this is now less common except for boys at private schools. Some Scittish boys wear kilts for religious services and special events like weddings. Scotland is a largely Protestant country. The Scottish Reformation played an important role in the Reformatiion, espcially the British Reformation. There were a few isolated areas of Scotland that remained Catholic. Many Scottish Catholics areItrush families in Glasgow. Thus a number of Scottish boys do Catholic First Communions, but only a few do it waring kilts.
Mayr-Harting, Henry (1991). The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991).
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