Describe the importance of Irish monasteries in Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries. Define scriptoria. Why were monasteries involved in the production of manuscripts?
From the following scholarly Web site: http://ireland.wlu.edu/irish_monasteries1.htm
The Irish Church was largely independent of the structure and influence of Rome; hence it developed along its own, idiosyncratic lines. At the heart of the Irish Church were the Irish Monasteries, which served as the center of both religious and social life in Ireland. The typical monastery was like a small village, with huts and small houses surrounding the central church. Here the Irish monks dedicated themselves to the preservation of western classical learning.
In the 12th century, the great European monastic orders were introduced to Ireland: the Cistercians, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians built enormous monasteries, abbeys, and priories throughout Ireland. Cromwell's razing of the Irish countryside and the Catholic church in the 17th century destroyed many of these buildings, but their ruins remain today--evidence of an Ireland that is no longer.
Many images on pages linked to this one show ruins of these monasteries in Ireland.
From the following related site, URL: http://ireland.wlu.edu/lecture/ch1_3.htm
True Irish history begins with the Celts, originally a northern European people, who settled Ireland along with Wales and Scotland around the first century A.D., and began what we now refer to as Irish civilization. The bulk of what I earlier called "traditional Irish mythology" emerges from the culture of these people and their relations with the Christian culture that followed them. Essentially a hunting and warring culture, the Celts were ruled by several petty chieftains for centuries, practicing a kind of earth and sun worship known generally as "Druidism," and governed by a system of laws and interpreted judgments called "Brehon Law." This culture was then radically transformed--though not entirely replaced--when in the early 5th century one of the Irish former British slaves, named Patrick, returned to Ireland and began the awesome project of converting the Celts to Christianity.
View "St. Patrick of Ireland"
The result of Patrick's mission was astonishing: in a rare peaceful conversion, Ireland was transformed into an almost entirely Christian community, covered with monasteries and abbies and dedicated to the task of preserving the classical learning that was rapidly being extinguished by the barbarians ravaging Europe during what we now term "the Dark Ages."
View "Irish Monasteries"
So successful were the Irish Priests in preserving this culture that they subsequently spread out to the rest of Europe and restored the classical learning, and many of the classical books, that otherwise would have vanished from the West. For example, St. Columba sailed from Ireland to the island of Iona in 563 and established the great monastic community there. As early as the 8th century, the Anglo-Saxon historian, "the Venerable Bede," wrote: "At that time there were many of the English nation, both of noble and of lesser rank, who, whether for divine study or to lead a more continent life, had left their native land and had withdrawn to Ireland. Certain among them gave themselves up willingly to the monastic way of life, while others rather went about from cell to cell of the teachers and took pleasure in cultivating study. And all these the Irish most freely received, and made it their study to provide them with food from day to day without any charge, with books to read and with free teaching." This has led to the idea that the Irish "saved western civilization," a concept that has much truth, considered in a broad sense.
Another page: http://ireland.wlu.edu/lecture/ch1_4.htm
The earliest Irish poetry comes from this period, and from the hands of the very monks and scribes who were laboriously copying the Classics. Often scribbled in the margins of a scholarly text, these early poems--the oldest vernacular poetry in all European literature (preceding Chaucer by as much as 7 centuries)--are marked by a tension between the Christian, or orthodox, belief, and the pagan, or unorthodox, belief, a tension that will continue in Irish writing all the way into the 21st century. Often the monks would rhapsodize about the beauty of the natural world that surrounded them (as in "The Hermit Marban" or "First of summer, lovely sight!"); other poems seek to reconcile the poet to the doctrines of the Christian faith ("Eve am I, great Adam's wife" or "I'm ashamed of my thoughts"). The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse is a rich collection of this ancient Irish poetry in English translation. For a good range of this monastic poetry, read the four poems below. Pay ...
Web site references/URLs, discussion of the importance of 7-8th century Irish monasteries in the saving and transmission of great works of learning, literature, the sciences and scripture. Definition and explanation of scriptoria.