Ireland is often referred to as The Land of Saints and Scholars. During the Dark Ages in Europe, much of the continent was overrun by barbarian tribes. Irish priests and scholars were responsible for keeping many ancient texts intact, and for creating new art and literature. Of primary note is the Book of Kells, an illuminated text of the four gospels, currently housed at Trinity College in Dublin.
When the Dark Ages ended, Irish scholars were considered a critical element of nearly every European court.