The Celtic language, Indo-European in origin, had its own evolution. In the Celtic lands in antiquity there were two vernacular linguistic groups: Gaelic Irish, Scottish and Manx from the Isle of Man and Brittonic Celtic, whose members were closely related, including the inhabitants of Wales and Cornwall, and the Bretons. The tribal groups that spoke these languages became Christian before or during the patristic age. Very little evidence remains of the pre-English Christianity of Britain or of the Christian practices of the Welsh, Breton, Cornwall, Pict and Scottish churches. It seems probable that during the Roman occupation, Christianity was confined to the lowest classes, although it spread beyond the borders of Roman Britannia and among the more wealthy and military classes in the course of the 4th c. In the Celtic regions, the churches and monasteries were able to stay autonomous in a way that was impossible for the churches under the centralized authority of Rome. Their inspiration, pre-Benedictine, was based on the Desert Fathers; Martin of Tours also exercised a considerable influence. The heads of monasteries were typical presbyter-abbots not bishops who strongly prioritized missions. Their independence led to some eccentricities and to a strong attachment to their traditions. Both Bede and Aldhelm observe that the Celtic clergy considered the English to be excommunicates, refusing to eat with them.

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