it is claimed that Ninian converted the southern Picts, another tradition that must be assumed to be of Anglian origin. Before 685, the southern Picts had been under Anglian rule for some time, and the abbot-bishop of Abercorn (West Lothian) was in charge of their ecclesiastical affairs. In this situation, it was possible to defend the British Christianity of the Picts between Tay and Forth against the suspicion of irregularity by claiming that it had been established by Ninian, who was recognised by the Anglian church. The Christian British ruler Coroticus, who had been excommunicated by Patrick, was seen as being lord of Dumbarton as early as the seventh century. However, this identification - which could be interpreted as evidence for the dissemination of Christianity in Strathclyde during the fifth century - remains disputed. St Kentigern, who according to the Annales Cambriae died in 612, was active there at a later time, but a mass of legends obscures the picture we have of him.

British Christianity also became established in Ireland, primarily in Leinster, during the initial third of the fifth century. The Roman bishop Coelestine dispatched Palladius to Irish Christians in 431, but nothing more is known with regard to this mission. Since the seventh century, the Briton Patrick has been regarded as having been the founder of the Irish church.8 The question as to what forces drove Christianisation forward outside the area of his missionary activity remains unanswered. At the age of fifteen, Patrick was carried off by Irish pirates from Britain to Ireland into slavery, but managed to escape back to his homeland six years later. A dream vision after his return summoned him to preach the gospel in Ireland and this he later did, having been ordained bishop in the British church. Unlike Palladius, he was not called to minister to Christians but rather to pagans. It is not clear whether prior to his ordination he also spent some time in Gaul. He himselfstates that he was temporarily absent from Britain. The differing biographical details concerning a lengthy stay on the mainland as given in the lives of Patrick by Tirechan and Muirchu (seventh century) only serve to complete the hagiographic portrait of the saint. The exact period during which he worked is disputed. Not only do the Irish annals offer differing dates for his death, but also their claim that he began his work in 432 can be seen simply as a later attempt to provide a chronological connection with the mission of Palladius. He was active in northern Ireland, but again the precise whereabouts of his activities cannot be determined. Patrick's work was met with hostility and he was forced to 'buy' his freedom of movement by

8 The only reliable sources are Patrick's own writings (SC 249); see also R. P. C. Hanson, The life and writings of the historical Saint Patrick.

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