It was precisely because the monastic communities were like loving families that they had such a long-lasting and complete influence on the Irish people as a whole. These schools were the seedbeds of saints and scholars: literally thousands of young men and women received their formation in these communities. Some of them would stay and enter fully into monastic life, while others would return to their homes, marry, and raise their children in accordance with the profound Christian way of life that they had assimilated in the monastery. Some of the monks, either inspired by a desire for greater solitude, or by zeal to give what they had received to others, would leave the shores of their beloved homeland and set out “on pilgrimage for Christ” to other countries. Once again they would travel along paths previously trodden by their ancestors—both the pagans of long ago, and Christian pilgrims of more recent times.Because these monastic communities were centers of spiritual transformation and intense ascetic practice, they generated a dynamic environment which catalyzed the intellectual and artistic gifts of the Irish people, and laid them before the feet of Christ. In these monasteries, learning as well as sanctity was encouraged.The Irish avidly learned to write in Latin script, memorized long portions of the Scriptures (especially the Psalms), and even developed a written form for their exceedingly ancient oral traditions. When the Germanic peoples invaded the Continent (a.d. 400-550), the Gallic and Spanish scholars fled to Ireland with their books and traditions of the Greco-Roman Classical Age. In Ireland these books were zealously absorbed, treasured and passed on for centuries to come. Many Irish monks dedicated their whole lives to copying the Scriptures—the Old and New Testaments, as well as related writings—and often illuminated the manuscript pages with an intricate and beautiful art that is one of the wonders of the world.