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St Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland in 432-c461; he is also credited with driving all snakes from its shores.

As the new religion became firmly established, crafts workers and scholars came from many parts of Europe to study in Irish monasteries. Artists produced fine objects in gold and silver encrusted with precious stones, and metal and stone sculptures. Monks copied out important works in wonderfully illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells. Irish priests and scholars travelled all over Europe founding schools, monasteries, and cathedrals, which in their turn became famous centres of religious learning and craftsmanship.

All these events disprove the belief that was once held, that when the western Roman empire collapsed, Europe slid into a Dark Age of barbarism in which all beauty and learning were destroyed. The particular strength of art and learning in Ireland had an influence far beyond that island.

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