|We return to the Celtic evangelization. The Culdee host which is seen
doing battle with the darkness of Europe, is being numerously recruited both from Iona and
from the colleges of Ireland. The result is that the Columban houses are multiplying, and
the area of the evangelization is, year by year, being enlarged. We begin with France.
Fridolt, as we have said, broke ground at Poitiers in 501. Having started the work at this
central point he removed to the Rhine, a stream already historic, though the dwellers on
its banks were still heathen. This dark land now began to see a great light. Ultimately
Colurmbanus, as we have seen, came to the Vosges, and planted, along with other
monasteries, Luxeuil, which became a fruitful mother of Culdee cloisters, which in due
time dotted the Frankish plains to the west. Anthurius, a personal friend of Columbanus,
we find enrolled in this army of evangelical crusaders. He founded a number of Culdean
houses on the Marne, of which the most famous was the monastery of the Rebaix. His two
sons, Dado and Ado, were united with him in this pious labour. At Hombeg, near Remirmont,
to which Arnulf, of Metz, had retired  was not a cloisters but a single cell.
There came hither Germanus, the son of the
senator of Treves, a lad of seventeen, who was instructed in the faith, and after being
trained in agriculture, as was the Culdee fashion, he set out, in company of Fridvald, one
of the few surviving brethren of Columbanus, in search of a spot on which to build a
monastery. He found a suitable place on the banks of the Birs, a river well stocked with
fish, and there he reared a cloister which he named Grand Ville. Other two houses owe
their erection to himSt. Paul, upon the Wohrd, and one at Ursetz, on the Doubs.
After Germanus came his contemporary Wandregisil, who had a more adventurous career. He
set out for Bobbio, but on his way thither, stopped in the Jura. Thence he went to the
well known Culdee Audoin, who had become bishop of Rouen, by whom he was consecrated as
sub-dean. He afterwards repaired to the Culdee Abbot-bishop, Anudomar of Boulogne, who
ordained him a presbyter, and now he founded the cloister of St Vaudrille. His exclusive
work was the conversion of the heathen in the parts about. He lived amongst the wild men,
and in this he evinced the genuine Culdee spirit. He took as his motto, "Not unto us,
but unto Thy name be the glory."
Under Clodwig II. the wealthy
Frankish noble Leudobode founded the Cenobite cloister of Fleury, near Sully,on the right
bank of the Loire, east of Orleans. The letter of foundation contains as witnesses the
name of Odonus, four abbots, one presbyter, three deacons, of which one subscribes himself
" deacanus et vice-dominus" also a lay deacon, an attender on the sick, and
eight lay witnesses.  Culdean houses arose in Laon, Bourges, Paris, Solignac, Charenton,
at the sources of the Moselle, in the mountains of the Jura, and on the banks of the
Seine. "Towards the end of the seventh century," says Ebrard, " there were
in the north of France alone, i.e., to the north of the Loire and the Rhone, more
than forty monasteries, all daughters and grand-daughters of Luxeuil, and all obeying the
rule of Columbanus." We find the whole of France, about A.D. 600, strewed with Culdee
cloisters, Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphine excepted.
 At that time it was not uncommon for
persons to come all the way from Constantinople to Britain to learn the methods of
evangelising.  In Aquitaine
there existed a great number of Culdee houses. In that province, under the rule of the
Western Goths, who had been converted from Arianism by Fridolt, the Culdee Church
government appears to have been the prevailing form; almost, indeed, the universal form.
King Witiza (701-711) commanded all his clergy to be married, or as Anisette expresses it,
"he introduced everywhere the Culdee form of church government with its married
clergy." This drew upon him the displeasure of the Roman clergy of Spain, who
succeeded at last in expelling him from his throne.  Throughout the vast extent of French territory which has come under
our eyes, " the Culdees,"' says Ebrard, "found no opposing agencies, no
rival monasteries; they met with only a secularized and debased clergy. All the
Merovingian sovereigns, Brunhilde excepted welcomed them." Their lands were
cultivated, their subjects were instructed, and the disorders of the national clergy were
held in check. These benefits repaid an hundredfold the patronage the Merovingians
extended to the Culdee institutions.. Even so dutiful a son of the " Church" as
Montalemlert cannot withhold the tribute of his praise from these early
reformersProtestants before the age of Protestantism.
" The great Abbey of Sequania
(Luxeuil)," says he, "became a nursery of bishops and abbots, preachers and
reformers, for the whole Church of these vast countries, and principally for the two
kingdoms of Austrasia and Burgundy. Luxeuil was the most celebrated school of Christendom
during the seventh century, and the most frequented. The monks and clerks of other
monasteries, and, more numerous still, the children of the noblest Frank and Burgundian
races, crowded to it. Lyons, Autun, Langres, and Strasburg, the most famous cities of
Gaul, sent their youth thither."
Pressing over the frontier of France on the
east, the Culdees established themselves in the Rhine valley. The first to break a path
into this wilderness of heathenismfor such this lovely valley then waswe have
seen was Fridolt and Disibod; but its full illumination begins with the arrival of
Columbanus in the end of the sixth century. His persecutor, Queen Brunhilde, became,
unconsciously, a fellow-worker with the great missionary. As he fled before her, he
kindled lamps of Divine knowledge in his track. While he passed upon his way, these
continued to burn, and in the seventh century a line of Culdean churches and schools
stretched along the whole course of the Rhine, from Moire, underneath the Grisson Alps, to
the islands of the Rhine-delta.
It was the Culdee lamp that burned at
Constance, at Basle, at Spires, at Worms, at Mainz, and at Cologne. Boniface, the emissary
of Rome, came afterwards to put out these lights. Where the Culdee abbot had exercised his
paternal government, Boniface installed a mitered hierarchy with lordly power; and where
the simple Culdee oratory had stood, there rose a superb cathedral, in which the
scriptural worship of Iona was replaced by the new and gorgeous rites of Rome.
Beyond the Rhine was a vast territory,
broken by woody mountains and intersected by great rivers, stretching eastward to the
mountain barriers of Bohemia. In that age this wide tract was inhabited by pagan races. It
was a daring feat for the Culdee to carry his lamp into this great and terrible
wildernessthis land overhung by the shadow of death; yet the ardor of the Culdee
enabled him to accomplish this unspeakably hazardous, but unspeakably glorious enterprise.
"One man," it has been said, "does the work, and another runs off with all
the praise." It never was more signally so than in this case. The man who figures in
history as the "apostle of the Germans " is Boniface, the emissary of Rome. The
real "apostle of the Germans" was the Culdee Church. It was the first to break a
pathway into this great heathen world. But for it the Germans might have continued the
worshippers of Thor till Luther arrived. The missionaries of the North and the West knew
well the moral condition of this land, and they entered it on purpose to plant the Cross
on the ruins of its pagan shrines. The greatness of the conquest fired their imagination
not less than their piety. And the work they came to do they accomplished, though at
infinite toil and hazard. They spread themselves, in the course of their peregrinations,
from the banks of the Rhine to the frontier of Bohemia. They searched amid the forests and
the morasses and mountain chains of that vast expanse for suitable centers from which to
diffuse the light, and having found such, they proceeded to erect their little city of log
huts, with its oratory, its school, its refectory, its barn for storing their grain, and
its mill for grinding their meal. It was another Iona on the German plain. Their little
village they prudently enclosed with a rath; for their encampment was in the midst of
barbarians, who were not likely to show much consideration to the strangers, till they
knew something more of the errand on which they had come. Christian life was possible only
in an insulated Christian community.
The first lesson the Culdees gave their
heathen neighbours was in the arts. The fields around their encampment ploughed and
cropped, the fishing-net flung into the lake or into the river, the gin set to snare the
wild fowl or the roe, would suggest to the wild men, in whom the disposition to roam was
still strong, the advantages of settled over barbarian life. The good order of the Culdee
families was a yet higher picture of civilization not likely to be thrown away upon those
who were both quick to observe and apt to learn. Years might pass till the Germans were
gained to listen to higher teachings, but the patient labours of the missionaries, who
gave their lessons by the wayside, in woods, anywhere, in short, were at last crowned with
success; and over the whole of western Germany schools and churches arose, which there
under Culdee government, and were fountains of Culdee theology.
We can give only a few of the names
that figure in this first Christianization of Germany. From North Friesland and Heligoland
to the Rhine Delta, and from the Rhine Delta through Hessen to the Saale; and on the Maine
through the whole of Thuringia, known at this day as the Black Forest, did the sons of the
Culdees lay the solid foundation of a mission-work in accordance with the Word of God. One of the more distinguished
of this mission band was Willibrod, an Anglo-Saxon by birth. He threw himself with great
ardour into the conversion of the Germanic nations, and in the end of the seventh century
he passed over into Holland, with eleven of his countrymen, and began operations among the
Frieslanders. From thence he went to Heligoland, but being cruelly treated by King Radbod,
who put a member of the mission-party to death, he departed to Denmark, where he
evangelized. Finally he returned to Holland, where his second ministry was attended with
remarkable success. We shall see in the sequel that he was ultimately compelled to lay
these evangelical spoils at the feet of the Pope. He died at Utrecht, and did not live to
see the damage which the compliance of his old age inflicted upon that cause for which he
had spent the vigour of his manhood, with a devotion and success that have carried his
fame down to our day. 
About the same time, or a little
before (685), Killean, born in Scotland, entered the field. One Sabbath, as he sat in
church, the text, " Whosoever taketh not up his cross and followeth me, cannot be my
disciple," came into his mind, and he resolved to become a missionary. He set out
with twelve companions for the country of the eastern Franks, among whom the labours of
this little band of Scotchmen were rewarded with numerous conversions. The first
conversion of Bavaria was by Eustasius about 618, a few years after the death of Columba.
Its second evangelizer, Erfurt, was sprung of an aristocratic Frankish family, and under
him the mission greatly prospered. Culdeeism ascended the Danube, entered the Lower
Pannonia, churches and cloisters were founded everywhere in the region, on the Waller See
and on the ruins of the Roman city of Salzburg. The years 696-710 embrace the labours of
this missionary. The footsteps of the Culdees can be traced as far north as Iceland. They
had their stations there, and continued their labours, relieving each other by turns, till
driven out by the Norwegian invaders in the ninth century. "There were then,"
says Ara, the Norwegian historian,  "Christians there whom the Norwegians call Papas"
(Fathers). "There were left by them," says another Icelandic writer, "Irish
books, bells, and crooked staffs, and several other things, which seemed to indicate that
they were west men," i.e., Culdees.
Throughout the wide extent of our survey
Culdeeism stood distinct and apart in its faith, in its worship, and in its government
from the Roman Church. As regards all these points the Culdee Church continued unchanged
during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries. Its one supreme authority was Holy
Scripture. Each housewhich combined in one, church, school, and colonyhad an
abbot chosen by its members, who exercised not lordly but paternal sway. To him the
bishops, or missionary pastors, were subject. The bulk of its clergy were married men.
They trained their own missionaries, and having ordained them, sent them forth to fields,
the selection of which would seem to have been left largely to themselves. They dwelt in
clusters of timber huts, and not in one stone building, as was the Roman fashion in
succeeding centuries. They united agricultural labours with their mission work proper.
Some of the richest provinces in Germany and France at this day were first broken in from
the wilderness by the industry of the Culdees. They were indefatigable transcribers of
theological treatises, psalters, and Holy Scripture. The museums of many of the
Continental universities are stocked with the fruits of their pen. The Ambrosian Library
of Milan has a Commentary of Columbanus on the Psalms, long ascribed to Jerome, which,
with other Culdee relics, it accounts amongst its most precious treasures. The crowning
gift of the Culdee pen to these early churches was a translation of the Bible into the
vernacular. The first Frankish translation of the Scriptures, Ebrard says, was given by
Oatfridis to the German people in 750. It was no part of the policy of the Culdees to keep
under the spirit of their converts by imposing upon them the yoke of a foreign tongue, or
the authority of a ruling city. The Gospel adapted itself to the nations among whom it
journeyed, addressing each in its own tongue. To the Germans it became a German; to the
Franks a Frank. The Romans invited the nations to come to Italy if they would receive the
Gospel; the Culdees brought the Gospel from Italy to the nations.
The explorations of Ebrard have
revolutionized our conceptions of the early Christian church of western Europe. History
till now knew nothing really of this great, widespread, apostolic church. It had tracked
the footsteps of a few individual Culdees; it had registered a few incidents of their
story. But the facts it had picked up and transmitted were fragmentary, insulated, and
failed utterly to give us any adequate idea of the importance and grandeur of the drama of
which they were broken-off parts. History has enriched itself by this discovery which has
made us acquainted with an enterprise of spiritual chivalry so vast and so long sustained
that we hardly know where to look for its like. Historians had filled their page with the
miserable jealousies, quarrels, and battles of Roman bishops and Roman councils when, lo!
the veil rises from the sixth century, and there stands to view a church at Iona and
Bangor, at the ends of the world, instinct with the spirit of the Bible, bursting with
missionary zeal, pouring out armies of thorough-trained missionaries, who spread
themselves south and northin short, over all western Europe, and in the face of a
thousand dangers wars, deserts, seas, barbarous tribesinvite the nations to
drink of the Water of Life from the golden fountains of the Scriptures. It is, says
Ebrard, "of this Rome-free and essentially evangelical church, which was governed
from the island of Iona, that Columba, the younger, writes that it numbered a thousand
abbots, all under the jurisdiction of one Archimandrite." 
We shall sum up our rapid sketch of this
churchin the presence of which that of Rome in the same centuries stands
dwarfedin the words of Ebrard:"If now we look back upon all the ground we
have gone over, leaving out of view altogether the extension which the Culdean Church had
obtained up to 661 in Ireland, Scotland, and Northumberland, and confining our attention
to its spread on the Continent, we find this religious community in France, at the
beginning of the eighth century, existing in the heart of the National Church, and not
merely tolerated, but over the whole country, from the Jura to Nantes, and from this, line
as far north as the delta of the Rhine, Rome-free, and entirely unrestricted in
its internal organisation, decidedly favoured by the Merovingian kings, even dominating
the National Church in the sense of spiritual and intellectual influence, and often also
taking a part in its external government by the appointment of its abbots to important
sees. We find the whole of the northern half of France sowed, so to speak, with
monasteries, with all their peculiarities, in unopposed development. Then we find the
whole of Rhineland converted to Christianity by this Culdean Church, and ecclesiastically
governed by it in its own peculiar manner; likewise the whole of the country now called
Franconia, and Alamannia, and Bavaria, converted and ecclesiastically governed by
Culdeans, and Culdeans alone. And if we are to speak of the influences of the British
Church, as some express themselves, it must at least be confessed that these influences
might be compared to the overflow of a river, which covers the whole land. All the
distinctive peculiarities of the Culdean Churchits married priests, its sending out
of its missionaries by twelve, its practice of constructing its settlements in separate
houses, its subjection of chorepiscopi (or bishops of monasteries) to the rule of the
abbotsall this we find in Bavaria and Alamannia in, 730-739, just as it was in
Scotland in 565. It is all one and the same church-fellowship, that of the Viri-Dei,
or in Irish, the Keile De. In the whole south and west, and in a great part of
the north of Germany, before 'the apostle' of Germany was heard of, we find in existence a
flourishing, well-organised, Rome-free church, whose sole supreme authority was the Holy
Scriptures, and whose preaching was the word of the free redeeming grace of God in Christ
Gladly would we permit the curtain to
descend on the Culdee Church while yet its root is firm in the soil and its boughs are
stretched from Iona in the West to Bohemia on the East, and its shadow covers France and
Germany besides. Gladly would we spare ourselves and our readers the melancholy recital of
the tragic extirpation of this once noble vine. We must, however, pursue our subject a
little further. We behold Western Europe on the point of completing its reformation. The
spiritual illumination which has broke upon it from the north is year by year filling its
sky with glory, when, all suddenly, its nations are thrown back again into night. What has
occasioned a reversal so sad? It is the off-repeated tale of profound dissimulation on the
one side, and a too credulous trust on the other. Winfrid, an Anglo-Saxon by birth, and a
Benedictine monk, in 719 seeks out Willibrod, then at the head of the Culdee
evangelization, and under a great show of guilelessness and much pious zeal, insinuates
himself into his favour. He desires to study the methods of evangelising under the Culdee
leader. "He crept in beside Willibrod," says Dr. Ebrard, "as the wolf
steals in beside the shepherd," and lived for three years with him, a professed
coadjutor, but in reality a spy. At the end of three years he returned to Rome, whence he
had come, and where he had been instructed. Pope Gregory II. consecrated him as bishop, and changed his name to
Bonifacius, the "good-doer," as if in anticipation of the services expected from
him. He returned to Germany, no longer wearing the Culdee mask, but as the legate
extraordinary of the Pope. He brought with him letters from the pontiff, addressed to all
princes, enjoining them to assist him in ruling the churches over which he had been set.
Supported by the authority of Carloman and Pepin of France, he proceeded to suppress the
Culdee establishments by changing them into bishoprics subject to the authority of Rome.
He founded in Germany the Sees of Wartzburg, Burabourg, Erfurt, and Aichstadt, and in 744
the monastery of Fulda. This was the method Boniface adopted to evangelise the Germans,
even metamorphosing Culdee missionaries into Benedictine monks, and Culdee colleges into
Romish Sees, by fair means if possible, by force where artifice failed. It was in this way
that he earned his title of "apostle of the Germans." Even historians who think
him deserving of the honour do not conceal the startling vices that deformed his life.
Mosheim, for instance, observes of him that his "zeal for the glory and authority of
the Roman pontiff equaled, if it did not surpass, his zeal for the service of Christ and
the propagation of his religion," and that he " often employed violence and
terror, and sometimes artifice and fraud, in order to multiply the number of
Christians," and discovered a cunning and insidious turn of mind," and
"ignorance of many things appertaining to the true nature and genius of the Christian
religion."  The historian Ranke speaks in similar terms of this "apostle of the
Germans."  Nevertheless, both ascribe
to him, mistakenly of course, the glory of converting the Germans from heathenism. We see
the foundations of Culdeeism beginning to be sapped.
What helped, doubtless, to pave the way for
the fall of the Culdee Church, was the partial apostasy of Willibrod. In his latter days
he was drawn into an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Pope, and accepted at his
hands the bishopric of Utrecht. Willibrod could plead precedents for accepting a Roman
miter. Some eminent Culdees in the century before had accepted high positions in the
National Church from the kings of France, though they still remained within the lines of
Culdeeism. Willibrod accepted his appointment from the pontiff, a power before which, if
one begins to bow, he is sure at last to fall. His locks were shorn, and though he still
governed the Culdee Churches of Thuringia, it was with a diminished authority. Next,
Boniface arrived from Rome as legate extraordinary, and soon to be primate of Germany. In
his former pupil and colleague Willibrod now found a superior and master. The papal legate
had no inclination to betake himself to the forests and break up new ground. It was not to
his taste to risk his precious life amongst those of the Germans who were still heathens.
He preferred to build upon the foundations that Willibrod and other Culdees had laid, and
to effect a second conversion of Germany on the ruins of its first conversion.
Meanwhile, another cause hastened the
downfall of the Culdean Church. The supreme political power of the West had passed from
the Merovingian to the Carlovingian race. Pepin of Heristal stood up. He turned back the
Moslem by his arms, and saved Europe. The Pope, seeing it for his interests, allied
himself with this rising house. Thus the pontiff was able to wield the Carlovingian power
against his rivals and enemies the Culdees. This turned the balance in the conflict.
Boniface, the papal legate, was supported by the friendship and authority of the French
monarch. Willibrod was handicapped in the struggle. He had to contend against both the
papal and the royal power wielded by Boniface, now become primate of all Germany, and to
whom he, as bishop of Utrecht, owed obedience. The issue was that Willibrod, after forty
years labour (680-720), had to surrender this whole region to Boniface, and the battle was
The transformation of these countries went
on apace. It became the policy of both courts, that of Rome and that of France, to wear
out the Culdees, and eventually efface every vestige of them. Where had stood a Culdee
oratory or church, there rose a superb cathedral for the Roman worship. Where a Culdee
abbot had ruled, there a diocesan bishop bore sway. Where a cluster of log huts, inhabited
by Culdee brethren, had stood, there was erected a large stone building, in which monks of
the Benedictine order sheltered. The words which Bishop Aungerville addressed to the
friars of his day apply to the change we see passing on the Rhineland and the German
countries with even more point:"Now base Thersites handles the arms of
Achilles; the choicest trappings are thrown away upon lazy asses; blinking night-birds
lord it in the nest of eagles; and the silly kite sits on the perch of the hawk." The
traveler, as he passes along the lovely valley of the Rhine, or visits the German cities,
fails to reflect, it may be, that the ecclesiastical edifices that everywhere meet his eye
and awaken his admiration are in truth the memorials of the great Celtic evangelization of
the early centuries. These monuments of the wealth and power of Rome rise on the spots
where Culdee builders were the first to rear human habitations, where Culdee
agriculturists were the first to cultivate the ground, and where Culdee missionaries were
the first to open the Book of Life to the eyes of the ignorant natives.
When the light of the Culdee
Christianisation began to fade away, and at last went out, the shadows of the Dark Ages
fell fast and thick. Who, we ask, is responsible for the loss of these ten centuries?
There is no room here to hesitate. The Destroyer of the Culdee Church must answer at the
bar of posterity to this terrible indictment. The fiat that decreed that the Celtic
evangelization should be suppressed, also decreed that Christendom should abide for ages
without light and without liberty. That decree will yet crush into dust many a marble
tomb, and sweep from history's page many a name which at this hour shines brightly there.
The world will not easily condone so great a crime once it has come to the clear
apprehension of it. Meanwhile it is far from having attained to this. With a touch of
Islam resignation it looks on the dark ages as a dispensation, so fixed and absolute that
it was no more in its power to avoid passing through its darkness than it is in its power
to forbid an eclipse, or stay the going down of the sun. But the world will one day come
to think more rationally of it, and then it will ask why knowledge was enchained, and why
so many ages were given over to wars and superstition and slavery, which, but for the
suppression of the Celtic evangelization, would have been ennobled with freedom, enriched
with the spoils of art, and crowned with the blessings of a pure Christianity.
1. Ebrard, Die Iroschottishe Missionskirche
des sechten, sieventen und auchten Jahrhunderts, p. 313.
2. Ebrard, Die Iroschottishe Missionskirche
&c. pp. 313, 314.
3. Ibid., p. 315
4. Ebrard, p. 318.
5. Ibid., p. 316.
6. Ibid., p. 320.
7. Monks of the West, Book vii.
This brilliant work is not exempt from the charge of misleading. It confuses in the mind
of the reader two very different classes of monks and monasteries, even the Culdee
missionaries and the Roman monks who succeeded them, men of a wholly different spirit, and
who worked for wholly different ends, and who ultimately succeeded in undoing the labours
of the Culdee evangelists. But in this Montalembert has only followed the example of his
church, which has claimed many of these early Culdees as belonging to herself, by placing
them in her calendar of saintship. It will amuse the reader to learn that among others
whom she has canonized is Columbanus, the man who was her greatest and most uncompromising
opponent in the early ages. We need not say that these Culdees had been long in their
grave before Rome ventured to "honour them," as Montalembert calls it,
"with public worship."
8. Ebrard, p. 390.
9. Mosheim, cent. vii. part i. chap. i. See
also Alcuin's Life of Willibrod, in Mabillon's Lives of the Saints.
10. Ara, Multeisius, cited by
11. Zeitschrift für die Hiatorische
Theologie. Paper 5th. Die Iroschottishe Missionskirche des sechten, sieventen und auchten
Jahrhunderts und ihre verbreitung auf dem Festland, p. 389
12. Ebrard, p. 393.
13. Mosheim, cent. viii., part i., chap. i.
14. History of the Popes, Book i.,