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date: 26 January 2020

Celtic chantlocked

  • Ann Buckley


The liturgical chant sung by the Churches of the Celtic-speaking peoples of the Middle Ages before they conformed to the unitas catholica of the Roman Church.

The liturgical practices observed in Christian worship by Celtic-speaking peoples were developed in monastic communities in Ireland, Scotland, Cumbria, Wales, Devon, Cornwall and Brittany. However, Celtic influence was also evident in certain areas controlled by the Anglo-Saxons, such as Northumbria, and extended to the Continent through the efforts of Irish missionaries during the 6th and 7th centuries. Chief among these last was St Columbanus (c543–615), founder of the monasteries of Luxeuil and Bobbio. His followers spread the customs of the Columbanian abbeys throughout centres in what are now France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Several of the most important sources for the early Celtic liturgy are associated with the Columbanian foundations in Gaul.

It is somewhat misleading to refer to ‘the Celtic Church’, since there was no single, uniform institution under central authority, and medieval Celtic-speaking Christians never considered themselves ‘Celtic’ in the sense of belonging to a national group, although an awareness of common purpose may be said to have existed for a brief period during the late 6th century and the early 7th. Nonetheless, the term serves as a useful way of classifying regional and cultural distinctiveness, by identifying what was essentially a network of monastic communities that shared a similar kind of structure and between whom there was regular, sometimes close, contact....

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