A History of Canada: - Vol. 1

By Gustave Lanctot; Josephine Hambleton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
THE ERA OF THE FIRST DISCOVERIES: THE IRISH AND ICELANDERS IN AMERICA

Irish monks settle in the Scottish Isles. Driven before the Viking invasions, they migrate to Iceland. Fresh Scandinavian invasions. The Irish exodus towards Greenland. Their drift to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and their discovery of America. They settle in America. Their relations with Iceland and with Ireland. Gunnbjorn in an unknown land. The Norwegians come to Greenland under Eric the Red. Rediscovery of the continent. Leif's expedition to Newfoundland. Thorwald's expedition. Karlsefni settles in Vinland. Hostility of the Eskimos. The abandonment of Vinland. Greenland and her depopulation.

In the middle of the ninth century, Europe was still unaware of the existence of the American continent. At that time a number of fortuitous events led to its discovery. Ireland, most westerly of the lands pertaining to Europe, had experienced a deep and fervent mysticism after her conversion to Christianity two hundred years earlier and had built churches and monasteries. From here ardent and resolute monks had departed, some to carry the gospel to mainland Europe, others to pursue a hermit's life "on desert isles beyond impenetrable seas." Following the example of St. Columba, who raised the famous monastery at Iona in the Hebrides, some of these searchers of solitude went to the Orkneys, while others pushed on to the Shetlands. Small lay communities clustered about their monasteries, drawn by the material and spiritual advantages of these settlements. In the middle of the seventh century, the Pope's decision to replace Celtic with Roman rites prompted a fresh exodus of these monks, and a number settled about the year 725 in the archipelago of the Faeroes, where today place-names recall their sojourn. According to the customs

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