The Influence of the Irish during the Dark Ages
Little is thought of the Irish throughout the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, when it is largely thanks to them that Europe came there at all! For "as the Roman lands went from peace to chaos, the land of Ireland was rushing even more rapidly from chaos to peace." (pg. 124, T. Cahill) The Dark Ages are known as 'dark' for the simple reason that the learning of Classical Rome was lost. The tiny country of Ireland far to the West, and beyond the eye of the invading Barbarians, provided the only ray of light. Ireland had never received any attention from Rome, and indeed the only thing that Rome brought to it was Christianity. But with Christianity came knowledge and learning of the like never before seen in Ireland. Before the fifth century, Ireland had, at best, only a crude form of writing that resembled runes (*).
With the new religion came monasteries which would prove to be the economic centres of Ireland for centuries. They would also be the basis of Irish learning, and in the centuries that followed, these spread back through all of mainland Europe and Britain. The Irish monks were both diligent and creative in their work, and had the desire to spread the word of the Gospel to everyone. As they spanned across Europe, they brought with them their knowledge of Christianity, literature, and art. This was their contribution to Medieval Europe.
The Irish took, almost immediately, to Christianity, and Monasteries spread like wildfire throughout the land (Kildare, 500AD, ). But the Irish, being quite independent from Rome, put their own unique spin on the religion. They kept ties with some of the pagan Gods, and did things that would make a Roman roll...