In Search of Ancient Ireland: Saints and Scholars is a documentary by writer/producer/director Leo Eaton. Responsibility for cinematography, editing, and music is respectively by Gary Griffin; Barbara Ballow and Stephen O’Connell; and Michael O’Suilleabhain. Gerard McSorley provides narration.
The episode appears in the 170-minute program In Search of Ancient Ireland, between episode #1 on “Heroes” and episode #3 on “Warlords”. The Educational Broadcasting Corporation documentary premiered in 2002, with a companion book by writers Carmel McCaffrey and Leo Eaton and publisher Ivan R. Dee.
The documentary begins with 16-year-old Patrick’s (390-460) enslavement in Ireland. Patrick commenced life as a government official’s son and a priest’s grandson. He survived seven years’ toil in Ireland’s forests and mountains before escaping to England.
Patrick became a priest. He crossed back to Ireland. Tradition has it that Patrick
- Banished all snakes;
- Converted Ireland with the shamrock;
- Founded Armagh’s church;
- Wrote the only Christian missionary activity account outside the Roman Empire.
Patrick constitutes Ireland’s most important Christianizing force. But he did not work alone. Two events and three saints subsequently played important parts.
The name Brigid designates a beloved Celtic goddess and Ireland’s beloved female patron saint (453-524). It means “exalted one”. Ireland’s people traditionally merge the two compassionate women’s disparate backgrounds by
- Adapting pre-Christian observances — such as well-dressing — to Christian practices by reciting the Rosary while circling county Donegal wells nine times;
- Memorializing Saint Brigid with reed crosses whose patterns recall Celtic-patterned sun rays.
Worldwide catastrophe in 540 affected sunlight and harvests. Plague originating in Constantinople reached Ireland in 542. Famine and sickness tended to advance religion and spirituality.
Colmkill (521-597) copied the Book of Psalms, which a rival king claimed. The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne by which Uí Néill’s king reclaimed the manuscript disillusioned Colmkill. Colmkill exiled himself and twelve colleagues to Iona off western Scotland. He inspired all Christendom with illuminated manuscripts, whose highest expression is the Book of Kells. He joined Brigid and Patrick as Ireland’s patron saints.
Columbanus (540-615) accepted “white martyrdom”. Ireland’s monasteries became worldly business, cultural, and political centers. Hermit-minded priests left for islands off Ireland, northward to Iceland and further, according to St. Brendan’s Voyage to the Americas. Columbanus opted for continental Europe, where he founded abbeys and monasteries in France and Italy before being buried in the abbey church – Saint Columbanus Basilica – which he founded in Bobbio.
The documentary ends with the terminated sharing of Celtic Christianity abroad and the beginning defense of Celtic Ireland from intruders.
Copyright: Monday, July 23, 2012, by Derdriu.