A Unique Irish Blend of Traditions
Ireland is a long way from Rome. As a result, the Irish developed a form of Christianity that didn't follow Rome's rules to the letter. The Irish were much more open to different beliefs and accepting of nonbelievers. They didn't set as much store in the infallible authority of the church fathers, and they were more willing to allow women a say in how things would be run.
Early Irish Christians built their religion on top of a pre-existing culture and set of religious beliefs. The Celtic gods and the druidic traditions were still present, and everywhere people looked they saw the prehistoric mounds that were supposedly inhabited by the old deities. People still celebrated the old festivals, but put a new Christian veneer on them. For example, Samhain turned into All Hallows' Eve, better known as Halloween; All Hallows' Eve and All Saints' Day are still celebrated by the modern Catholic Church.
Some of the most beautiful reminders of Ireland's early Christians are the high crosses they left all over the country. These tall stone crosses are distinguished by a ring surrounding the intersection of the cross. The ring is thought to represent the sun, in an attempt to reconcile Christian beliefs with earlier sun worship. Many crosses are carved with Celtic designs.