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Christianity was a growing religion in Britain from the 330s onwards, and Chapter 3 tackles the difficult question of the relationship between Christianity, Christianisation and godlings. The chapter examines the phenomenon of Christian demonisation of pagan cults, arguing that it was a more complex process than mere condemnation and suppression, which inadvertently produced the potential for the survival (and even reinvention) of some of the beings it targeted. Through comparisons with the better evidenced Christianisation of other cultures in Europe and further afield, the chapter develops an interpretative framework for the likely changes undergone by popular religion in Britain’s lengthy conversion period. The framework includes the likely ‘undemonisation’ of formerly demonised entities and the creative ‘re-personification’ of supernatural forces to account for the survival and reinvention of godlings in a Christianised society – where godlings should not be seen so much as ‘pagan survivals’ but rather as non-Christian artefacts of Christianisation.
Between a hundred and two hundred manuscripts connected with Brittany, written in the ninth and tenth centuries, can be identified by their script, contents and Old Breton glosses; they survived the Viking age by being taken to Francia or England, and open a window on the sources and external contacts of Bretons’ scholarly culture. The manuscripts contain a wide variety of Latin texts, biblical, legal, grammatical, technical and historical. One of the most important subsets consists of manuscripts of the Irish canon law compilation, Collectio Canonum Hibernensis: it is unclear whether the text was obtained from Ireland or via Irish-influenced centres on the Continent, but the ability of Breton scribes to access both the extant versions in full, together with some of their source-texts, implies contact with the milieu of the original compilers. Glosses show that even texts that were widely available on the Continent, like grammars and the scientific writings of Bede, reached Bretons through Irish contacts. Some manuscripts reveal collaboration between annotators writing in Irish, Welsh and Breton, providing a context for the sharing of hagiographical information discussed in the previous chapter. The occasional sharing of rare texts allows us to pinpoint a few centres where such encounters may have taken place, among them are Reichenau and Echternach. The survival of Breton manuscripts in England suggests that Breton scholarship played a considerable part in the reconstruction of the English Church in the tenth century, after the Viking age.
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