Culdees of Fortrose Cathedral

Fortrose Cathedral on Scotland’s Black Isle peninsula sits in a semi-ruinous state like so many other ecclesiastical buildings that the later Presbyterian Kirk deigned not to use. The Chapter House survived because it effectively became a town hall and the south chapel a tomb for the local Seaforth Earls; the rest is all but gone. It is built in a pleasant red stone and adds a focal point to the village that it would otherwise lack.

There is some evidence that it was once staffed by a strange religious group called the Céilí Dé, which is ‘Spouses of God’ in ancient Irish, and is best pronounced Culdees in English. As the name suggests, they originated in Ireland and had bases throughout that place, Scotland and at least one in England at York. They developed in the dark ages, some time after the Romans' departure from Britannia, and survived in England until the Norman Conquest. In the 1000s, the Englishwoman Margaret of Wessex, Queen of Scotland, brought the Scottish Church more firmly under the control of the Roman Pontiff, and within two centuries, they were all but gone.

Historians have been tempted to consider the Culdees to be a proto-Protestant group, one of the elect 7000 who had not bowed their knees to the Dark Age Roman Baal. I believe that God has always had a faithful people on the earth, even when the times were idolatrous and corrupt, and the historical records were lacking. The true Gospel was not suddenly un-paused at the Reformation when Luther read his Bible; the previous thousand years saw men and women call on the name of the Lord and worshipped Him in the beauty of holiness, even though the times were thick with darkness and corruption. Whether the Culdees can be considered such a group, we cannot tell. There is a fashion among evangelicals to trumpet the virtues of ‘Celtic Christianity’ as though this were a pure Bible-believing expression of the Faith which Rome almost successfully extinguished. There may be elements of truth to this claim but it is hard to verify. The Day shall reveal the hearts of all, past and present.

If the Lord tarries long, and sinners on earth are given another 1500 years to repent, there will be future writers wondering if British Protestantism was ever faithful to the gospel’s purity. Some will read of liberalism’s stranglehold and Prosperity Teaching’s grip, and may conclude that it was no more able to preach Christ's free salvation than the Roman, Orthodox and Celtic churches than went before. Archaeologists and day trippers will examine the ruins of Salem Chapel and wonder if any within were truly saved, or merely had a form of godliness while denying the power thereof. If they may ask it then, ought not we to ask it now?

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12