|3a. Origins of British Christianity to the 590s|
Link to a map of Roman Britain
1. Roman Britain. Anglican means English. The Angles after whom England is named didnt come into what we now call England until the fifth century, and the name England didnt appear until about the ninth century, but the territory England now occupies knew Christianity in Roman times. The people who lived there when the Romans conquered it were Celtic, and we call them Britons. Rome removed its armies from Britain in 409 (the year before the great Sack of Rome by barbarian armies). That is the end of Roman Britain, though of course British Christianity continued.
2. Origins of England. Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic peoples came to Britain immigrated, invaded, or were invited (or some combination of these) in the fifth century. Signs of British culture decline and are replaced by signs of Germanic cultures, because of intermarriage and cultural assimilation, or conquest, or gradually shifting population patterns (or some combination of these). Anglo-Saxon kingdoms sprout up.
3. Celtic Christianity. It appears that British Christians migrated west to Wales and Ireland, and south to Brittany (present-day France), and north to Strathclyde in present-day Scotland. In many of these places the customs of Celtic Christianity survived into the twelfth century.
4. Scotland. North of England lies present-day Scotland, called Caledonia in Roman times (though this territory was never conquered by the Romans). In these times it was inhabited by peoples called Picts. In the sixth century, invaders from northern Ireland called Scotti came to occupy the northern part of this territory, while germanic invaders from England came to occupy the southern part of this territory. Northumbria became disputed border territory. The pictish, germanic, celtic, and scandinavian peoples of this northern area were united in the new kingdom of Scotland after the battle of Carham in 1018.
Christianity in Roman Britain
1. Planting of Christianity. Who began evangelizing Britain, and when, are unknown. There have been legends that:
● Joseph of Arimathea founded a church at Glastonbury in the first century, and that he brought with him the holy grail of Arthurian legend; or that
● Britain was settled by the ten lost tribes of Israel after the Assyrian invasion of 722 BC (a view promoted by "British Israel" and by the twentieth-century American evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong); or that
● Jesus as a youth visited Britain with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, as alluded to in Blake's "Jerusalem."
2. Alban. The story of Britains proto-martyr, Alban, is given in Bede (H.E., I, vii). It is generally regarded as based in fact. The martyrdom is variously dated in the early 200s, in the 250s during the Decian persecution, or in the early 300s under the persecution of Diocletian. The present-day abbey and cathedral of St. Albans, north of London, is supposed to be where Alban was executed.
3. Archaeology. There are remains of Christian house churches and church buildings. The British Museum displays a floor mosaic from a third- or fourth-century church found in Dorset in 1963, featuring the head of Christ along with Christian symbolism.
4. Pelagius. A monk from the British isles who taught at Rome in the years around 400. Pelagianism is usually described as holding that people can take the initial step towards their salvation (underestimating Gods grace, overestimating human capacity). Some say that its better described as holding that, at conversion, Christians can rise above sin. Either way, the western Church disowned it.
6. Gildas. A British Christian who wrote The Ruin of Britain around the 540s, the only ancient history of the Celts. He connected the conquest of the Britons by the Germans with the corruption of the Churchs leadership, and urged reform.
7. Monasteries. British Christians were influenced by the style of monasticism connected with Martin of Tours (in present-day France) in the fourth century. This monasticism set higher demands than the more successful, and probably more humane, monasticism connected with St. Benedict two centuries later. Many of the Celtic saints were founders of monasteries. They include :
8. Themes of Celtic Christianity.
9. Characteristic Anglican themes as seen in the Roman British period.