Not long after establishing the monastery on Iona, Columcille was preaching the Gospel on his way to Inverness, to witness to the Pictish King Brude. He was stopped by a group of Druid Priests, who demanded that Columcille and his twelve monks return to Ireland. These pagan priests claimed that Druidism was the true religion, and drew a circle on the ground, saying that Christ conflicted with the nature cycle. Columcille took his staff and drew an intersecting cross within the circle. Columcille said that God could not conflict with nature because God had Himself Created nature, and rather instead complemented it; working with it and through it.
Later, when Iona grew, wherever Columcille preached to the Picts, he would leave behind 12 monks, founding a new monastery that would become a center of Christian teaching, and eventually a Christian town. Though the Druidic Priests opposed him all the way, little by little the light of Christ covered Northern Scotland. Later, Ninian would bring Christ to the Southern Picts, and Scotland would be completely converted. One of Columcille's monks at Iona, an Irishman named Aidan, would be sent out to found a monastery at Lindisfarne, becoming the missionary monk who brought the Angles and Northern England to Christ.
Monasteries grew in size and wealth from AD 700.
The Monks began to create some beautiful works of art.
They used gold, silver, bronze and jewels;
The Ardagh Chalice
The Monks also produced many beautiful manuscripts
in Latin of the Gospels;
The Book of Durrow
The Book of Kells
The Ardagh Chalice is made of silver and dates from around the 8th century. It is basically a hemispherical cup inspired by Byzantine design.It has two handles, held on by rivets that are disguised by studs. It is decorated with panels of gold filigree, gilt bronze and milifiori studs .The glass studs have all been individually cast. Probably a metal frame was made first and then the areas of red enamel poured in. Molten blue glass was lastly applied making the studs solid. The bands of filigree run in a band round the top, leaving large areas of plain silver which give great contrast. The Apostles names are lightly inscribed below this band, with the exception of Judas. It was discovered in the 1860s by a boy digging for potatoes! It is now housed in the National Museum, Dublin.
The Tara brooch is a circle of cast silver gilt covered with sheets of gold foil, and beautifully decorated with beads, twisted and plaited wires of gold, amber and glassstuds, stylised animals and spirals. All of this in a piece less than 2inches in diameter!