How Ireland became Europe’s most ‘civilised’ country

How Ireland became the 'Land of Saints and Scholars'

Ireland and the Irish people of the Dark Ages, from around AD 400 -600, can be credited with preserving and developing early Christian civilisation that was in danger of being lost forever.

A BBC documentary ‘How the Celts Saved Britain’ tells the story of how the once civilised Britain had fallen into chaos following the collapse of the Roman Empire. The first part of the documentary looks at how Christianity and civilisation spread across Ireland.

The second part looks at how civilisation returned to Britain from Ireland following the fall of the Roman Empire. Click here for part two

How Ireland became the 'Land of Saints and Scholars'

Civilisation was thought to be at something of a peak during the era of the Roman Empire, but the Romans never reached Ireland.

The natives of Ireland were thought to be very uncivilised as they hadn’t been influenced by the Romans. They had their own culture of clans and chieftains, which didn’t include towns or roads and other modern systems. Ireland was thought to be quite primitive compared with other parts of Europe.

Ironically, when the Roman Empire collapsed it was Ireland that became the centre of European culture. As societies across Britain and Europe descended into terrifying violence. The scholars and Christians sought refuge in Ireland.

Ireland had already began its transformation into a more civilised and literate place thanks to the arrival of missionaries such as St Patrick, who is credited with spreading Christianity across the country.

With Christianity came monasteries, which was where people came to learn and share knowledge.

In part one of the documentary, presenter Dan Snow explores how Ireland transformed from a so-called uncivilised country into the most forward-thinking place in Europe.

Take a look at part one below.

Part two – How Ireland brought civilisation to Britain during the Dark Ages

How the Celts saved Britain Part one