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Kinnon O´Darach, *390 in a Mhumhain (Hibernia), †468 in Londinium, is the founder of the Celtic Church and has been declared a saint by his successor, Archbishop Cailean, in 482.
St Kinnon grew up as the only son of a druid. As a young teenager, he experienced the conquest of a Mhumhain by the Imperium Romanum Galliarum and its incorporation into the Hibernia province. The far-reaching changes caused by the conquest of Hibernia affected both Kinnon and his family. In the Empire, the role of druids had been redefined along more scientific lines - a shift in their cultural and social role which many traditional Hibernian and Caledonian druids of the early 5th century did not approve at all, but which Kinnon's father also knew was inevitable.
Thus, at the age of 16, Kinnon was sent to Britannia to study at the University of Londinium.
During his third year of study, Kinnon left Britannia and began his travels around the world. Many legends label his travels as a great "quest for truth" - given the political, cultural and spiritual confusion in the newly conquered provinces, but also to some extent in the Celtic Empire at large, these legends may contain a grain of truth. For large parts of his journey, few sources are available except for Kinnon's own autobiographical texts.
It is assumed that Kinnon traveled for at least one year through Europe (most likely limiting himself to the Celtic and Roman Empire). During this time, he came into contact with Christianity. His own descriptions vary, but they do not yet describe this period as one of conversion.
In 410, Kinnon matriculated at the Schola theologiae catholicae in Rome. It is unclear to what extent this already implied Christian convictions or the aim to pursue a theological career. Kinnon studied in Rome for another three years and became a disciple of a theologian named Pelagius. It can be safely concluded that during this period, Kinnon already understood himself as a Christian. He embraced Pelagius' ascetic ideals and condemnation of superficial piousness as well as his (neoplatonic) rejection of original (hereditary) sin and his tenets that every human, be they Christian or not, can live righteously and free from sin without depending absolutely on God´s grace.
Kinnon saw the limited long-term effects of such theological considerations on the religious practices and convictions of many of those who listened to them, and attributed them to an atomised religious culture and widespread aversion against ascetic ideals in the affluent and cosmopolitan Roman society, which differed considerably from the environment he had grown up in. Searching for ways how convictions like his or Pelagius' could grow deeper roots, he left Rome in 413 and traveled across the Mediterranean to Egypt and Arabia Palestine, where he met ascetic communities of Essene Jews and Simonist hermits. Kinnon lived especially among the latter for approximately four years, fond of their rigour and counter-cultural spirit, but ultimately appalled by their black-and-white / them-and-us interpretations of social and political differences in terms of an unsophisticated, politicised Christian belief system. These experiences prompted Kinnon to formulate his expectation of ascetic communities as cultural and religious leaders, who provide the rest of the population with guidance instead of isolating from them.
On Ostrogothic boats, Kinnon traveled farther east and experienced the adventurous spirit of a network covering vast distances, held together by the common cultural bond of its scriptural religion (even if the sea merchants didn't always take their Judaism as seriously as Kinnon might have).
Around 420, he reached India. The almost ten years he spent in Buddhist monasteries were a crucial experience for Kinnon. He kept his Christian convictions regarding God and the afterlife, but saw the monastic life of Buddhist monks, with its balance between erudite meditation and a guiding role for their immediate and distant environment, as an ideal for Christianity, too.
When Kinnon returned to Rome, he found Pelagius dead and declared a heretic, and Augustine's philosophy of God as merciful redeemer omnipresent among Catholics. Disappointed, he went to Lutetia, capital of the Celtic empire. Here, Pelagianism was not yet quite dead - and, what was more important, he found an interested audience among all those druids / intellectuals, to whom the new anti-metaphysical "Celtic philosophy" did not appeal. With several hundred supporters backing his idea, Kinnon proposed to the Celtic emperor Tetricus the establishment of a Celtic Church, with a single bishop, appointed by the emperor, which would contribute to the formation of a modern yet distinct Celtic identity and provide the social class of druids with a new purpose. Tetricus accepted the idea - an explanation for Kinnon's quick political success may be found in the challenge which Priscillianism still posited to the Celtic state and economy. The new confession could be controlled by the state - and it offered an alternative to those with monastic tendencies. Celtic monasteries would be the main centres of this confession, they would be financed by the empire to ensure loyalty and unity, and they would be an important tool to pacify and integrate the elite of unruly provinces on the islands. Tetricus appointed Kinnon as the first bishop of the Celtic Church in 435.