Healy: Ireland’s Ancient Schools And Scholars

Pdf Healy, Rev. John, Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars, Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1912
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Ireland’s Ancient Schools And Scholars by Rev. John Healy (1841-1918) is a history of the monastic and religious communities in Ireland which played a major role in the preservation of learning in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Scholars came to Ireland from across Europe to learn at hese centres of learning while missionaries trained in Ireland travelled to Britain and through barbarian Europe converting pagans to Christianity.

After the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the faith became the official religion of the Roman Empire. However the invasions of Germanic tribes caused its collapse and break up in Western Europe. The Franks eventually conquered what is now France, Germany and Northern Italy while the Saxons conquered Britain. As the advanced Roman civilisation disintegrated, much of Europe reverted to paganism and ignorance while Christianity remained intact in Ireland .

Christian missionaries from Ireland travelled to Scotland where Irish invaders had established a kingdom and converted the Picts. Once their presence was established they converted the Saxons in the south in England . In 496, the Frankish king Clovis converted to Christianity and Christian missionaries, many from Ireland established monasteries and centres of learning across his realm in France , Germany and Italy . Christian converts travelled to Ireland which became known as “the land of saints and scholars.” Irish monastic scholars were a feature of medieval Christianity across Europe for centuries.

Rev. Healy, who served as Bishop of Clonfert and later as Bishop of Tuam, wrote Ireland’s Ancient Schools And Scholars in the context of a resurgent Catholic Church in 19th century Ireland . Following the repeal of the discriminatory penal laws and the Great Famine, Irish nationalism became inextricably linked to Roman Catholicism.

The purpose of Healy’s work was to demonstrate an unbroken tradition of Irish scholarship, learning and missionary activity from the earliest times. Catholic colleges, seminaries and convents in the late 19th and early 20th century were full of zealous Irish young people who were eager to establish the dominance of their religion in Ireland and throughout much of the world.


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