The impact of
monasticism on Scotland was profound and long lasting. The arrival of the monks brought
a whole new conception of society to its pagan tribes - ideas of a
Christian community, education and the responsibilities of leadership
and government that still under-pin Scottish society today. Along
with Scotlands warrior kings, they shaped the very idea of the
The Arrival of the Monasticism
The Coming of the Word
Where imperial, pagan Rome had failed, Christian Rome triumphed. From
the late fourth century Christianity slowly suffused across the frontier
of the Roman Empire in the wake of soldiers, traders and unknown evangelisers.
It was a slow process across Scotland, but the individual impact of
conversion must have been quite dramatic - challenging people's most
deep-rooted beliefs about the order of the world.
Being a Monk was to be part of a new movement, Monasticism, literally
dwelling alone. The monk was expected to seek seclusion
from worldly life to study and contemplate the word of God. What
started in the deserts of North Africa in the fourth century rapidly
spread across the western world, but in attempting to escape the
world, the Monks couldn't help but change it dramatically.
Through their commitment to spirituality they established new ideas
on virtuous living, becoming renowned as holy men with quasi-magical
powers. But it was the monastic commitment to learning that was
especially useful to Dark Age rulers. Monastic libraries were huge
reservoirs of knowledge. Through the medium of the written word
monks held the power of transmitting and storing information.
Royal patronage was a crucial component of Christianitys success.
Scotlands early saints were usually bishops or abbots who
founded a monastery with the local kings blessing. From these
monasteries they consolidated Christian belief within their local
communities and passed it onto others through missionaries. Check
the 'Special Features' section above for links to St Ninian, St
Columba, St Andrew, the Reformed Orders and David I's Monastic Revolution.