The fusion between Christianity and Celtic beliefs which led to what we now refer to as Celtic Christianity occurred because of similar beliefs between the two as well as the Christians’ openness to incorporating Celtic practices into Christianity. One example of this is the Christians’ use of sites for worship which had been previously used by the Celts for pagan rituals.
The number three was sacred to the Celts as well as the Christians. One of the most central beliefs in Christianity is the trinity, one God in three persons. The Celts had deities that took different forms according to their function, so accepting the Christians’ triune God was not too much of a stretch for them.
Both the Celts and Christians believed in immortality and an afterlife. The tradition of Celtic ancestor worship continued in Celtic Christianity through the worship of saints.
Christian sites of worship and artwork used Celtic images. Symbolic stones erected by the Celts probably led to the high crosses seen throughout Ireland. High crosses are a variation of the Celtic cross and their magnificent carvings includes images from the Bible and the lives of the saints alongside images from Celtic pagan mythology.
Another marvelous example of Celtic images being incorporated into Christianity is the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the gospels which was created around the year 800, probably in an Irish monastery. The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells combine traditional Christian images and symbols with Celtic ones. The illustration above is from the Book of Kells and shows Christ enthroned.