The Church

The Church in Scotland

Religion is an important part of everyday life. Many people dedicate their whole lives to God as monks or nuns, or worked as lay members of monasteries and nunneries. Scotland is home to cathedrals, chapels, collegiate churches, monastic buildings, shrines, altars, holy wells, religious relics, carved stone crosses and burial grounds.

Men and women have left their everyday lives to go on crusade or to take to the road as a pilgrim. People believe in the devil and all his works and fear a very real hell.

Tha Church has laid out the year as a series of festivals, saints’ feast days and holy days. The Christian Apostle St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland while St Kentigern, also known as St Mungo, was the patron saint of Glasgow. St. Ninian is the PAtron Saint of Galloway and the focus of pilgrimages to Whithorn. However, Hundreds of saints’ days are celebrated in Scotland.

Religious services are conducted in Latin. Stone carvings, wooden rood screens, wall paintings and embroideries bring Bible stories to the common and illeterate masses. Stories of sinners, purgatory and the Easter cycle are acted out in medieval plays on feast days. Craft guilds funded different stories that fit their trade.

Many Christian religious sites were built upon earlier sacred places. Pagan sacred wells became holy wells dedicated to the Virgin Mary of a local saint. In some places ancient standing stones were built into the walls of churches and chapels. Pre-Christian festivals like Samhuinn evolved to become Catholic celebrations like Halloween. Furthermore, earlier Christian sites are being expanded and rebuilt as monastic communities grow wealthy from the wool trade or influential patrons ensured their place in Heaven by making generous donations to the church

In the Norman period, from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, the Scottish church underwent a series of reforms and transformations. With royal and lay patronage, a clearer parochial structure based around local churches was developed. Large numbers of new monastic foundations, which followed continental forms of reformed monasticism, began to predominate.

Celtic Church (Culdi)

The Celtic Church has its origins in the conversion of Ireland, traditionally associated with St. Patrick. This form of Christianity later spread to northern Britain through Iona. The Celtic form of Christianity contrasts with missions from Rome, which reached southern England in 587 under the leadership of St. Augustine of Canterbury. Subsequent missions from Canterbury then helped convert the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, reaching Northumbria in the early eighth century, where Iona had already begun to have an presence. As a result, Christianity in Galloway became a mix of Celtic and Roman influences.

While Roman and Celtic Christianity are very similar in doctrine and both accepted ultimate papal authority, there were differences in practice. The most contentious were the method of calculating Easter, and the form of head shaving for priests known as tonsure: in the Irish tradition the hair above the forehead was shaved. Other differences were in the rites of ordination and baptism, and in the form of service of the liturgy. In addition scholars have identified significant characteristics of the organisation of Irish and Scottish Christianity as relaxed ideas of clerical celibacy with the Celtic Church more comfortable with wives, intense secularisation of ecclesiastical institutions, and the lack of a diocesan structure. This made abbots (or coarbs), rather than bishops, the most important element the church hierarchy.


Scotland has no Archbishops, and its bishops
List of Scottish Church Leaders

The Church in Galloway

Casa Candida (Whithorne Cathedral)

Abbeys, Priories and Monestaries

A monastery is simply a place where people who devoted themselves exclusively to religion can live. In Scotland, a monastery could be a simple hovel housing one hermit, or a vast complex of buildings housing a large order of monks. Generally monasteries enforced strict rules regarding who could join and how members would live; usually members had to give up all of their personal possessions.

Well known monastic orders include Benedictines, Cistercians and Augustinians, generally named for the saint they adopt as their figurehead.

Monastic Offices

Queen Margaret’s son David I brought many monastic orders to Scotland. Ailred of Rievaulx said of David I:

… at the beginning of his reign he diligently practised the things that are of God in building Churches, in founding monasteries, which he also endowed with properties and riches according to the needs of each.

Canonbie Priory (f. 1165-1170)
Augustinian Canons Regular; dependent on Jedbugh

Dercongal Abbey (Holywood Abbey) (f. 1225)
Premonstratensian Canons — from Soulseat

Dundrennan Abbey (The Abbey Church of Saint Mary)(f. 1142 by David I or Fergus)
Cistercian monks — from Rievaulx

Glenluce Abbey (The Abbey Church of Saint Mary, Glenluce)(f. 1191 by Roland of Galloway)
Cistercian monks — from Melrose; daughter of Dundrennan

Hoddam Monastery (f. before 612 by St. Kintigern) (Ruins)
Celtic Monks

Inch Manor
Seat of the Bishop of Galloway.

Lincluden Priory (f. 1164 by Uchtred man Fergus)
Benedictine nuns

Lochkindeloch Priory (f. ?)
Cistercian monks — supposed foundation; parish church, but no religious house in the parish other than Sweetheart Abbey

St Mary’s Priory, St Mary’s Isle (Isle of Trahil or Trayl)(f. 1138)
Augustinian Canons Regular — from Holyrood

Soulseat Abbey/Viride Stagnum (“green loch”) (Abbey Church of Saint Mary and Saint John)(f. 1140 by St. Malachy, 1161 by Bishop Gille-aldan)
Premonstratensian Canons — from Prémontre
Orignially founded as Cistercian monastery by the Irish St Malachy who died in the arms of St Bernard, but it failed after Malachy’s death and Bishop Gille-aldan, who had established the Augustinians at Whithorn, must have intervened and did the same by establishing a new order at Saulset (Soulseat Abbey).

Tongland Abbey (f. 1218)
Premonstratensian Canons — from Cockersand, Lancashire; daughter of Cockersand;

Whithorn Priory (cathedral church of Galloway)(f. 4th C./ 8th C. 1175 by Fergus)
Premonstratensian Canons, daughter of Soulseat, Inch, Wigtownshire, Wigtownshire

Notable Church Figures

The Church

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