Dinooth and Celtic Christianity

The Celtic Church in Wales was largely untouched by the advance of paganism, brought to the British Isles by the invading Picts and Saxons. While what we now know as Scotland, England and Ireland were soon engulfed in the pagan beliefs of their conquerors, the church in Wales continued to quietly prosper. One of the most significant figures in the history of the Welsh branch of the Celtic church is Dinooth. Born around 530 AD he was an energetic and unyielding proponent of the truth in Wales and played a significant role in the preservation of Bible truth in his native land. Dinooth founded the famous Welsh training school at Bangor and was the head of the Celtic Church in England and Wales.

The Training School at Bangor

Dinooth was a contemporary of Columba and was at the height of his career when Columba was at the tail end of his. Much of the pioneering work done at Iona was used as a blueprint for building up the training school at Bangor. Dinooth was the most compelling thought leader in the Celtic Church in Wales during his lifetime and a key figure in shaping the spiritual values of his nation. He was also an able defender of Biblical truth against the subtle advances of Romanism.

The training school at Bangor was an educational hub, housing thousands of students at any given time and devoted to the 

same kind of educational program as Columba had developed on Iona. The students engaged in manual labor and the study of the arts and sciences but at the foundation of all educational pursuit was the study of the scriptures. This was the lifeblood of the spiritual vivacity at the college and many of the students transcribed the bible by hand while they were at Bangor.

Dinooth and Augustine

In 597 AD Augustine and his delegation of monks landed in Kent under direct order from Pope Gregory I to evangelize the pagan Saxons and this he succeeded in doing. Once he had managed to subdue Kent he prevailed upon the Saxon Ethelbert, King of Kent to summon all the prominent religious leaders and teachers from various parts of the British Isles to a place known as Augustine’s Oak, on the banks of the river Severn, for a meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to garner the allegiance of each of these branches of the Celtic church to the Pope at Rome. The delegation mainly consisted of scholars from the training school at Bangor and Dinooth, as head of the school, was among them. During this encounter Augustine made a stirring oration about the importance of unity, subtly accusing the Celtic churches of spreading disunity by teaching doctrines contrary to the Roman church and calling for Ecumenism in the form of the submission of the Celtic church to the authority of the Pope. He then set before them their need to evangelize the pagan Saxons among them as a united force.

To Dinooth and the other Celtic pastors the implication of such a request was clear; should they acquiesce they would lose their distinct identity and as a follow-on of that loss would forfeit the clear direction of their mission. Dinooth politely declined, stating that while they were happy to listen to what the Pope had to say, as they would be to any other brother in Christ, they would not place themselves under obligation to submit to him in any way. A second meeting was called for but the response of the Celtic pastors remained the same; they would not yield.

The encounter between the Celtic church and Augustine highlights an important spiritual lesson; never sacrifice distinct spiritual identity for the sake of unity. God’s people have always had a clear sense of their biblical identity outlined in the scriptures and those who have embraced that identity and all it involves, have gone forward with an intensity and drive that has turned the world upside down.

Those who have sacrificed it for the sake of peace and unity, have always found themselves floundering in the choppy waters of compromise and have thus lost a clear sense of their purpose and mission. 

Papal Persecution

Shortly after the debate Aethlefirth of Northumbria, a recent convert to Catholicism retaliated against the people of Wales and led an army against them in what is now known as the Battle of Chester. The historian Bede writes that 1200 ministerial students at the training school in Bangor were slaughtered by Aeithlefirth’s army while they were in the act of prayer.

Dinooth died around 610 AD but his legacy lived on in the scores of missionaries who were sent out from Bangor to evangelize England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the continental regions beyond.  Dinooth was a thought leader, a visionary and a scholar and the engine that drove each of these advances was his deep commitment to truth and his unwavering submission to the will of God in every area of his life.  Champions of Faith like Dinooth are not born, they are made in the audience chamber of God in prayer and at the feet of Jesus in communion with their savior. There is room in that hall of faith for you.

Further Reading

  • Wilkerson, B.G. (1944) – Truth Triumphant