The Monasteries in Scotland.

From ca 1100 to the end of
the thirteenth century Scotland, that is  the lands outside the
Highland Line, were ruled by the Norman dynasty of Malcolm Canmore who
introduced Southern and European ways to the Court when he acceded to the
throne in 1057. A major contribution to the establishment of the Roman
church at this time was made by his pious wife, Margaret. She was the
daughter of the West Saxon king, Atheling, whom Canmore married in the
spring of 1069.  Margaret is credited with introducing ceremonial as
benefited the status of the king and with it brought improvements in dress
and manners, and the use of silver and gold vessels for the royal table.
Importantly the Norman – French connection led to trade with the continent
which in time would give impetus to a merchant trading class, increased
knowledge, new skills and manufactures. She was especially conspicuous in
raising and restoring churches and in reforming the church which had
fallen into ignorance and corruption. She saw that the monastic church, largely consisting of cloistered hermits, had
run its course and there was a need to place the church on a level with
other Catholic churches in Europe. With her husband as translator ( from
Anglo Saxon into Gaelic) she summoned the ecclesiastics and discussed with
them what seemed to be wrong and endeavoured to wean them from the
traditional Celtic faith. This she did with great success, bringing order
and regularity of form to the rites. With her husband, she was a liberal
benefactor to the church and became known as St. Margaret.

King David I (1124 – 1153)
carried the work forward. He was responsible for creating a structure for
the church based on the parishes and created 12 bishop`s sees covering the
kingdom. Each had a bishop, with a specific designated area and was
supported by an archdeacon and rural deans. The consequence of this
structure was that it gave a unified system to the people with a common
religious service and doctrines, and created common habits of worship.
David I was also a great supporter of the church and many abbeys were
endowed under his rule. Following his example many of his nobles also
supported and patronised the churches within their fiefdom. Thus there was
in Scotland a solid base on which to build religion.

David I had spent nearly
forty years in the Court of England, was Earl of Huntingdon and held
considerable lands. He brought to Scotland further enthusiasm for Norman
French ways and the concept of a structure for his kingdom as a whole –
feudalism, church reform, construction of burghs, and personal control
over government. Of these feudalism with all land belonging to the king,
created units of land ownership that had nothing to do with the clans,
tribes or kinship. All authority rested with the king and if he chose to
make a grant of land to his nobles the ` lord` granted his ` vassal` a
`fief`. The vassal could then sub fief to others. But in each case there
were strict conditions of loyalty and service imposed down the line so
that the peasant at the bottom possibly received no rights other than the
protection of his lord. New ideas, especially those impacting on
traditional rights of  local lords and chieftains took time to
introduce and not until Malcolm IV (1153 – 1165) and William the Lion
(1165-1214) was it begun in earnest. Malcolm IV colonised Strathclyde
region with Norman and Flemish knights while William the Lion did the same
in Angus and Perth with some fiefs stretching to Aberdeen and Moray.
William was responsible for the foundation of the great Benedictine
monastery at Arbroath which was dedicated to Thomas  Becket in 1178.This
Norman influence gave rise to the incorporation of the Celtic earls into a
feudal arrangement and their marriages into Norman families.

 There had been
considerable donations of land and money to monasteries and the like in
the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries which became a considerable source of
income when the land was rented out. King David was a strong promoter of
the monasteries and especially favoured the Cistercian, Tironian and
Premonstratensian orders which laid emphasis on hard work and withdrawal
from the
Lincluden Abbey
Lincluden Collegiate Church in Nithsdale was a Benedictine nunnery or convent until
dissolved in 1389.  Sometimes, however, things did not work out as
planned.  In 1485 King James III  resolved to found the Chapel
Royal at Stirling, and to pay for it he decided to suppress Coldingham
Priory and reduce it to the rank of a collegiate church. However, the Home
family had long been the  usurpers of the Priory and gave determined
opposition. They joined with other barons in the Borders and defeated the
King at Sauchie, where the King was treacherously put to death.

As late as 1596 the monks
were still opposing the Reformation such as Abbott Gilbert Brown of New
Abbey who had a public correspondence with John Welch of Ayr and was
eventually deported in 1605 after a short stay in Blackness and Edinburgh
castles. The monks at New Abbey, also known as SweetheartNew (Sweetheart) Abbey
Abbey, foresaw the way the Reformation would end and placed their property
in the hands of the powerful Maxwell family and appointed them heritable
baillies. So long as the monks stayed at the Abbey the Maxwells paid them
the revenues and when they were driven away the Maxwells retained the
church lands. With the support of such an influential family the departure
of the monks was delayed by quite a few years.

On the eve of the
The variety of Orders that the monks represented were
many with Templars or Red Monks; Trinity Monks of Aberdeen; Cistercian
Monks (White Monks); Carmelite; Dominicans (Black Friars); Franciscans
(Grey Friars ) ; Jacobines and Benedictines. There were over a hundred and
fifty convents, monasteries and convents in Scotland with monks in their
cloisters and friars wandering preaching and begging. They were derived
mainly from the two great orders of St Augustine and St Benedict, whose
respective rules they adopted to varying degrees.  Over time the
Orders were themselves reformed as more zealous leaders emerged such that
the Benedictines for example, gave rise to the reformed Cluniac order and
they in turn to the Cistercian order, each seeking a very simple and
dedicated way  that avoided personal prosperity and opulence. This
contrasted greatly with others who became lax and worldly.

The principal monasteries
of Medieval Scotland were to be found mainly in a line that followed the
east coast from Berwick on Tweed to Inverness, outside the Highland Line.
In the far West was Iona in splendid isolation and three monasteries in
the Dumfries and Galloway region. The four monasteries of Melrose, Kelso,
Jedburgh and Dryburgh for example,  exercised a vast influence over
the districts in which  were placed and their Abbots ranked as high
as any prelate in the land. They were admitted to all the Councils and
involved in the weightiest considerations of State. A common feature of
the monasteries was the wide variety and location of their endowments made
to call heavenly blessings down on the benefactor. Thus Melrose held great
estates not only in Teviotdale but  in East Lothian, Eskdale,
Galloway and Ayrshire.

By the sixteenth century the monastic
houses had  acquired many of the characteristics of large property
owning  corporations. Not only had they been endowed with extensive
lands  but  many had gained the teinds  appropriated from
parish churches. At their head in each case  was an abbot or prior
who was essentially a great landlord and usually an influential
politician. At the other extreme they might be just a figurehead or even a
minor installed by a kinsman. It was often the object  of a noble
family to obtain the prize of an abbacy through  a commendatorship
where the nominee assumed the role of a regular abbot. Among these were 
Quentin Kennedy son of the 2nd Earl of Cassillis at Crossraguel; and
Donald Campbell son of the 2nd Earl of Argyll at Coupar Angus; Malcolm
Fleming Dean of Dunblane  was prior of Whithorn; Walter Reid, a
cleric of St Andrews was abbot of Kinloss, and Thomas Hay, canon of Moray
and Ross was abbot of Glenluce. Bishops also acquired comendatorships such
as Patrick Hepburn bishop of Moray, was commendator of Scone abbey. On the
eve of the Reformation there were commendators at Arbroath, Coldingham,
Culross, Deer, Dryburgh, Dundrennan, Dunfermline, Holyroodhouse, Holywood,
Inchaffray, Inchcolm, Inchmahome, Kelso, Kilwinning, Melrose, Newbattle,
Paisley, St Andrews, Scone, and Soulseat. The common feature to all was
that the `family` concerned ensured the disposal of properties, rentals
and other benefits to their kin. Very little filtered down to the common

The role of the monasteries

The Officers of a monastery

Monastic Buildings

Monastic Orders

Monasteries and the people.