I watched Dan Snow’s two part documentary ‘How the Celts saved Britain‘ (catch it still on iplayer) which I found quite interesting, worth watching if you’re interested in the way that the Christianity of the early middle ages intersected with the cultural, intellectual and technological changes of the time.
I have to say though, I was a bit annoyed by a few holes in the thinking behind the programme – for a start there was a very uncritical reading of Bede’s history, no suggestion that he might have over egged the Celtic stories at all. On the other hand, Snow did a good job of explaining hagiography, although it verged upon the ‘this is probably all made up’ side of things. He could have done with explaining a bit about the way the hagiographies were written, and the other literature tradtions of the time.
But much worse than that was the confusion over the way they developed the story of Irish Christianity, there was no explanation of the way that Ireland and the Celts developed a form of Christianity which was much more rooted in the Eastern traditions than the later Roman forms. There is the suggestion that Patrick converted the entire island, but no explanation of how his Roman practises came to differ from the later Roman practises.
Fact is it was too simplistic – with no suggestion of other influences coming in to Ireland, or explanation of the way that Christian practises developed, I suppose this is inevitable with TV. More annoying were the dramatic interludes of arrows, shadowy faces and so on… but maybe that was just me. Worth watching despite the gripes.