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Christianity reached Britain during the 3rd century, and perhaps earlier, probably from Gaul. An early tradition records the death of a martyr Alban at Verulamium, the present St Albans. A fully grown Roman British Church existed in the 4th century: bishops of London, York and Lincoln attended the council of Arles in 314; the church assented to the council of Nicaea in 325, and some of its bishops were present at the council of Rimini in 359.

The church held the Catholic faith. Britons made pilgrimages, to Rome and to Palestine, and some joined the monks who gathered round Saint Martin, bishop of Tours. Among these was Ninian, who preached to the southern Picts, and about 400 built a church of stone on Wigton Bay; its whiteness struck the people and their name for it is commemorated in the modern name Whithorn. From northern Britain, Saint Patrick went to accomplish his work as the apostle of Ireland.

Early in the 5th century Britain was infected by the heresy of Pelagius, himself a Briton by birth, but in 429 Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, recalled the church to orthodoxy and, according to tradition, led their converts to victory, the Hallelujah victory, over the Picts and Scots. When the Britons were hard pressed by Saxon invaders large bodies of them found shelter in western Armorica, in a lesser Britain, which gave its name to Brittany. A British Church was founded there, and bishops, scholars and recluses of either Britain seem constantly to have visited the other.

This text forms part of the History of the Church of England originally part of the entry ENGLAND, CHURCH OF from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the content of which lies within the public domain.

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