The origins of Christianity in Scotland are believed to date back to as early as the second century, most likely being introduced to what is now the Lowlands by Roman soldiers stationed in the north of the province of Britannia.
But the religion was not firmly established until four centuries later, following the fall of the Roman Empire.
The earliest missionaries to the Pictish lands came mainly from Ireland, and included Saint Ninian and Saint Columba, who was exiled and created a monastery on the island of Iona.
Born in 512AD, Columba travelled to Scotland in 563AD with “12 apostles” and is considered the most important of the saints in establishing Christianity in the country.
For most of the medieval period, Christianity was the dominant religion in Scotland.
Missions tended to found monastic institutions and collegiate churches that served large areas. Partly as a result of these factors, scholars have identified a distinctive form of Celtic Christianity, in which abbots were more significant than bishops and attitudes to clerical celibacy were more relaxed.
There were also significant differences in Celtic practice as opposed to Roman Christianity, particularly the method of calculating Easter, though most were resolved by the mid-seventh century.
The Vikings changed the nature of religion for some centuries, but after the reconversion of Scandinavian Scotland from the 10th century, Christianity under papal authority was the dominant religion of the kingdom.
In the Norman period, the Scottish church underwent a series of reforms and transformations.
Large numbers of new foundations, which followed continental forms of reformed monasticism, began to predominate and the Scottish church established its independence from that of England.