When Saint Augustine came over, about the beginning of the sixth century, to Britain, for the purpose of converting the natives to Christianity, he found the country already occupied by a Body of priests and their disciples, who were distinguished for the pure and simple apostolic religion which they professed. These were the Culdees, a name said by some to be derived from Cultores Dei, or worshipers of God ; but by others, with perhaps more plausibility, from the Gaelic, Cuildich, which means a secluded corner, and evidently alludes to their recluse mode of life. The Culdees are said to have come over into Britain with the Roman legions; and thus it has been conjectured that these primitive Christians were in some way connected with the Roman Colleges of Architects, blanches of which Body, it is well known, everywhere accompanied the legionary armies of the empire.
The chief seat of the Culdees was in the island of Iona, where Saint Culumba, coming out of Ireland, with twelve Brethren, in the year 563 A.D., established their principal monastery. At Avernethy, the capital of the kingdom of the Picts, they founded another in the year 600 A.D., and subsequently other principal seats at Dunkeld, St. Andrew's, Brechin, Dunblane, Dunfermline, Kirkaldy, Melrose, and many other places in Scotland.
A writer in the London Freemasons Quarterly Review (1842, page 36) says they were little solicitous to raise architectural structures, but sought chiefly to civilize and socialize mankind by imparting to them the knowledge of those pure principles which they taught in their Lodges. Lenning and Gdieke, however, both state that the Culdees had organized within themselves, and as a part of their social system, Corporations of Builders; and that they exercised the architectural art in the construction of many sacred edifices in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and even in other countries of Northern. Europe. Gdicke also claims that the York Constitutions of the tenth century were derived from them. But neither of these German lexicographers has furnished us With authorities upon which these statements are founded. It is, however, undeniable, that Masonic writers have always claimed that there was a connection---it might be only a mythical one---between these apostolic Christians and the early Freemasonry of Ireland and Scotland. The Culdees were opposed and persecuted by the adherents ofi Saint Augustine, and were eventually extinguished in Scotland. But their complete suppression did not take place until about the fourteenth century.
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