The End of a Golden Age
Medieval Ireland became known as the Island of Saints and Scholars. Irish monasteries such as Glendalough and Clonmacnoise were famous all over Europe, luring students from England and the Continent. Clonmacnoise was known as the University of the West. But it didn't last.
Beginning in 795, Viking raiders started coming to Ireland. They weren't interested in learning or art, but they knew where to find riches — in monasteries. Over the next 200 years, Vikings attacked and burned hundreds of monasteries and killed countless monks. Ireland's Golden Age was coming to an end.
A charming aspect of Irish medieval texts is the way the personalities of the Irish scribes shine through. They felt free to add their own comments to the work of other authors. Occasionally they even inserted little poems about their own lives.
Still, the Irish remember their medieval Christian forebears and their glorious heyday. They have carefully preserved the relics of that day, the exuberant decorated texts and works in metal. People travel from all over the world to visit Irish shrines and holy sites. And the world still has access to classical texts, which would not have been possible if Ireland had not created a group of joyful, imaginative scholars and an age of peace.