StHilda Memorial with ammonites at feet

St. Hilda memorial with ammonites at her feet – extinct sea creatures in the same family as octopus and squid. Celtic Christianity was always Catholic, but the Church of the early Middle Ages was marked by regional distinctives as much as by a uniformity of faith, with noticeable differences in Britain and Ireland. These regional practices included both spiritual and liturgical variations. Hilda presided over a council at her abbey in Whitby, on the Yorkshire coast, where she helped argue for the preservation of local understandings, but her position was voted down in favor of uniformity. Various revival movements have occurred periodically since then, and we’re in the midst of one now. Saints like Patrick, Columba and others, through their missionary efforts, had a profound influence among the clans and tribes of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Man, changing the way people saw themselves and their relationship with God – influences that did not extend south among the Saxons. Hilda became the defender of those traditions. Their ultimate suppression was more a political decision than a theological one; the Saxons had the money, weapons and organization to dominate their neighbours, and the synod reflected political realities that came to define British political life. But the Irish, Scots, Welsh and others have continued to assert their identities and traditions ever since.

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