Christianity in Ireland began with Coptic monks escaping persecution


Coptic Killybegs?:  An excellent lecture was delivered by Alf Monaghan on Friday night last, courtesy of the History & Heritage Committee, exploring the evidence that Christianity in Ireland began with Coptic monks escaping persecution in Egypt, before the time of St Patrick.  One possibility, he suggested,was that Patrick was sent to Romanise the church in Ireland which, at the time,was founded on Egyptian mysticism.  Mr Monaghan, who confessed at the outset that he was not a historian, an archaeologist or a theologian, displayed many of the best characteristics of all three disciplines during his 90-minute lecture.  In spite of clashing with the big night at the Blue Haven where Seamie Coleman was guest of honour, the H&H event in the carpet factory was exceptionally well attended.  A native of Carrick-on-Shannon, Alf Monaghan worked for 30 years as an economic advisor to governments and development agencies in Northern Europe, Central America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa.  He spent more than ten years living and working in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt.  Always interested in history, his time in Syria and Egypt in particular sparked off a deeper interest in early Christianity and the influence of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa on Irish Christianity. 

In his talk he discussed, among other things, the detail of the carved high crosses of Irish monasticism, considered the similarities of style and content of the illuminated manuscripts of Egypt and Ireland and looked at the conflict on matters of style and content between the Roman and Irish churches which continued for centuries after the time of St Patrick.  He noted that, among the many Irish place names which indicate a Coptic connection is Killybegs, Na Cealla Beaga, where the patron saint of the parish is St Catherine of Alexandria.  At the very least, Mr Monaghan's lecture raises many questions worthy of further study and discussion.









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