Cold, remote and small, Ireland is a land where history abounds, but one which history has largely forgotten. As it lies on the fringes of the European continent, Ireland must strain to even gain mention. Indeed the island has been dominated by its western neighbor for nearly a millennium. But it was not always this way.
During the fall of the Roman Empire, Ireland remained untouched by the subsequent Germanic invasions that swept the continent and ravaged what was left of Rome’s imperial glory. Some Roman citizens even fled to Ireland’s shores, but some were taken there by force. One such captive, St. Patrick, would have a profound impact on not just Irish history, but European as well. St. Patrick was the main force in the conversion of the pagan tribes to Christianity. Once Ireland was united under the Christian faith, monasteries sprang up and supplied the forum for the last remaining news medium. One of the many practices at Irish monasteries was the transcribing of texts, sacred and secular. What they did was take old Roman texts that were written on papyri and transcribe them on parchment, which is made of animal skin. Parchment, unlike papyri, does not dissolve over a long period of time. Thus, the Irish monks were responsible for preserving many ancient documents that would have been lost simply to the detritus of time.
Yet this was not Ireland’s only legacy. Well before Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to Kent to reconvert the pagan Angles and Saxons, Ireland was well on its way to completing the conversion of the tribes. When Latin and Irish (or Celtic) clerics met at the end of their missions, there was a union of the two churches. So although time seems to have passed that westward island on the edge of Europe, its relics and its people remain a testimony to the accomplishments of ages past.