History of Britain, Christianity Comes to Britain – The Romans had brought their own religious customs with them to Britain, and built temples in which to whorship their gods. Apart from their loathing of the Druids, they were tolerant of the islander’s beliefs. As in so many other things, the men of Rome and the people of Britain went their own, differen, ways.
But one morning in 313 an event occured that was to affect the whole world, and which, eventually, enabled Romans and Britons to worship side-by-side. The Roman Emperor Constantine I was converted to Christianity.
Inevitably, word of this reached the empire’s outposts; and, just as certainly, the old gods were put on one side. The message of Christianity was universal. The Briton, too, accepted it.
But when the Romans withdrew, the Barbarians brought their pagan gods with them. For 150 years. Christianity was driven underground. When it returned, the message travelled across the land from the north and from the south.
During one of theur raids on Wales, the Irish had snatched a Christian boy named Patrick from his home near the River Severn. Patrick was sold as a slave.
He learned the Irish language; and, some years later, he escaped to England. He studied to become a priest. In 432, the Pope ordered him back to Ireland as a missionary. Within ten years, Patrick had converted very nearly the whole island.
Thanks to his work, it was an Irishman who took Christianity to Scotland. In 561, a monk named Columba landed on the island of Iona off the wetern coast.
He built a monastery, and taught the gospel to the picts. From this base, the new faith spread across Scotland and southwards into England. Seventy years later, monks from Iona were preaching in Northumberland, where they built a monastery a Lindisfarne.
Christianity returned to southern England in 597, when Pope Gregory sent forty monks, led by a man named Augustine, from Rome. These men were afraid.
They had heard such tales of British brutality that travelled very far, they asked Augustine to return and beg Gregory to release them from their task. But Gregory refused and the journey continued.
They were fortunate. They landed on Thanet. As it happened, the ruler of Kent, King Ethelbert, had a Christian wife. He told them to go ahead with their work; and even offered them lodgings in his capital at Canterbury. Some while later, he himself became converted.
During the year of their missions, Augustine and his monka baptised ten thousand people.