Christianity has deeply influenced Highland life and culture. Place names across the Highlands tell of the early spread of Christianity. Religious art, not least the Celtic Cross, and architecture highlight its importance in society. Much Gaelic prose and poetry reveals the deep personal Christian faith shared by so many across the region. Even the geography of the Highlands has been affected by the pattern of distribution of particular Christian traditions.
The Coming of Christianity
The early medieval Celtic Church with its monastic foundations brought the Gospel to the Highlands from the 6th century onwards. Iona is the lasting symbol of that first flush of missionary activity. By the 12th century the Celtic Church had finally been absorbed into the Catholic Church.
From then until the end of the 16th century, the late medieval church was one of the great estates of the Scottish nation. It administered much of the King's affairs. It represented the King abroad, particularly in any dealings with the Pope. It provided care for the poor and the sick and set up the first universities in Scotland. But corruption in the Church led to the Reformation.
The 16th century Reformation saw Roman Catholicism largely replaced by Presbyterianism. The now Reformed Church of Scotland under the leadership of John Knox instituted, among other things, the idea of education for all. Yet by the 17th century the Church of Scotland was dividing between Evangelicals and Moderates. The Disruption of 1843 resulted and the schism has never quite healed, particularly in the Highlands.
The Church today
Since the mid 20th century most Christian denominations have experienced a decline in membership. Materialism and wealth have been mainly responsible, but political pressure for a multi-faith society is also working to the detriment of Christianity.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
'Calvinism in the Gaidhealtachd of Scotland', in Calvinism in Europe, 1560-1620, eds. A. Duke, G. Lewis and A. Pettegree. pp. 231-53
'Columba, Adomnan and the cult of saints in Scotland', Innes Review, vol. 48, no. 1 (Spring 1997), 1-26
'Early Christianity in Pictland'
Jarrow Lecture, 1970
ALLAN I. MACINNES
'Evangelical Protestantism in the nineteenth century Highlands', in G.Walker & T Gallagher (eds) Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland
STEPHEN T DRISCOLL
'Political Discourse and the Growth of Christian Ceremonialism in Pictland: the Place of the St Andrews Sarcophagus', St Andrews Sarcophagus, ed. Sally M Foster
D. Broun and T. Clancy (ed.)
Spes Scotorum : Saint Columba, Iona and Scotland
'The Counter-Reformation in Scotland: a select critical bibliography', Records of the Scottish Church History Society, xxii
'The Long Nineteenth Century: Scotland's Catholic Gaidhealtachd' in Out of the Ghetto? The Catholic Community in Modern Scotland, (ed. R. Boyle and P. Lynch)
'The medieval church in Scotland: a select critical bibliography', Records of the Scottish Church History Society, xxi
Cowan, Ian B
'The post-Columban church', RSCHS, 18
'The Scottish Church in the nineteenth century: a select critical bibliography', Records of the Scottish Church History Society, xxiii
'The Scottish Church, 1600-1660: a select critical bibliography', Records of the Scottish Church History Society, xxi
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