The Saxon invasion cut off Britain from communication with Rome; and the British Church having no share in the progressive life of the Roman Church, differences gradually arose between them. The organization of the British Church was monastic, its bishops being members, usually abbots, of monasteries, and not strictly diocesan, for the monasteries to which the clergy were attached had a tribal character. The monastic communities were large, Bangor numbered 2,000 monks. From Gildas, a British monk, who wrote about 550, we gather that the bishops were rich and powerful and claimed apostolical succession; that though governed by synods the church lacked discipline; that simony was rife, and that bishops and clergy were neglectful. He evidently draws too dark a picture, for religious activity was not extinct. Gildas himself and others preached in Ireland, and from them the Scots, the dominant people of Ireland, received a ritual.
The organization of the Scotic Church in Ireland was similar to that of the British Church. Its monastic settlements or schools were many and large, and were the abodes of learning. Bishops dwelt in them and were reverenced for their office, but each was subject to the direction of the abbot and convent. In 565 Saint Columba, the founder and head of several Scotic monasteries, left Ireland and founded a monastery in Hii or baa, which afforded gospel teaching to the Scots of Dalriada and the northern Picts, and later did a great work in evangelizing many of the Teutonic conquerors of Britain. By 602 the British Church, in common with the Irish Scots, followed practices which differed from the Roman use as it then was; it kept Easter at a different date; its clergy wore a different tonsure, and there was some defect in its baptismal rite. The conquerors of Britain, Saxons, Angles and Jutes were heathens; the Britons gradually retreated before them to Wales, and to western and northern districts, or dwelt among them either as slaves or as outlaws hiding in swamps and forests, and they made no attempts to evangelize the conquering race.
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.