“Nithsdale.1 – It is natural to turn to the collegiate church of Lincluden to search for John Morow’s work in Nithsdale. It stands in a most enchanting glade, on the margin of the river Cluden, and no sooner do we tread the verdant sun-swept carpet covering the floor of its ruined nave than we know that the search is not in vain.
The abbey of Lincluden is said to have been founded by Uchtred, son of Fergus, lord of Galloway, about the year 1164, for a sisterhood of Benedictine nuns.2 Of this early structure only a few stones remain, half buried in the grass, in the north aisle of the nave. On the abbey coming into the possession of Archibald (the Grim), third earl of Douglas, and lord of Galloway, towards the end of the fourteenth century, he transformed it into a collegiate church for twelve canons,3 Elias being the first provost.4 Douglas died on the 12th December, 1400, and was buried in the church erected by him at Bothwell.5 He can have had no part in the erection of the church at Lincluden. It must have been founded after his death, sometime between the years 1409 and 1424.6 Alexander de Carnys would be the first building provost,7 and he was succeeded by John Cameron, who here, perhaps, first exhibited that passion for building which distinguished him when he became bishop of Glasgow.8 The choir alone stands with its walls complete, richly adorned with sculpture, and with the arms of the Douglas family connections. The stone roof with its many moulded ribs, which was designed, and, in part, executed, was never completed, and the only ceiling which the choir ever had was the timber floor of the upper room.9
COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF LINCLUDEN.
This room had a plain pointed stone vault, with broad cross ribs, over which was the timber roof.10 The nave was of four bays in length. Fragments of the south wall remain; of the rest, it is only possible to trace the outline. The provost’s lodging, on the north of the church, was evidently of the same date as the choir, but a considerable part of it was rebuilt about the year 1530, by provost William Stewart.11
A stone Rood Screen stands at the entrance to the choir. It is constructed of a soft red sandstone, and is now in a very dilapidated condition. A photographic representation is given.12 The finely moulded low-arched doorway measures 5 feet 11 inches wide by 7 feet 2 inches high in the centre, the height to the springing being 6 feet 21/2 inches.13 Access is had to the loft by the staircase at the south-west corner of the choir.14 As the screen is only 2 feet 11 inches thick the width of the floor above was increased to 5 feet 4 inches by projecting richly-sculptured cornices. There was no stone parapet.15 The cornice on the east side, towards the choir, is in one course, and projects 10 inches. It is enriched with a large delicately-under-cut leaf ornament. The cornice on the west side, towards the nave, is in two courses. The upper course is enriched with a series of angels sculptured in half length, with wings extended and hands placed on their breasts. Seventeen of these figures remain. Small cherubs’ heads are carved in the triangular spaces between the wings. The sculpture on the lower course is so delicate, the figures are so small and in such high relief, that much of it has disappeared, owing to the unlooked-for exposure to the weather. Yet sufficient remains to make the story intelligible. It is the story of the early life of Christ. It is told in six scenes, which follow closely the Bible narrative:- I. The first, on the left, is almost beyond recognition. The figure of a large-winged angel is the only clue to the Annunciation, as the subject portrayed. II. The Birth of Christ is shewn in the second group, immediately over the jamb of the doorway. Mary is lying on a bed covered by a sheet which reaches to the floor. The infant Jesus lies by her side in a manger. Joseph sits on a chair at the foot of the bed with a staff in his hand. Two attendants kneel at Mary’s pillow.16 III. In the third group, to the left of the centre of the doorway, we have the Adoration of the Magi. Mary sits to the right on a chair with Jesus on her knee. Three crowned kings kneel before her. The first has a robe in his hands, and a crown lies at Mary’s feet. The second king bears a cup. IV. The group to the right of the centre represents the Visit of the Shepherds. The figures of Mary and Jesus are destroyed, although the chair on which Mary sat is perfect. Joseph sits behind it on a high stool. Six figures kneel in front of Mary’s chair facing towards her. V. The group over the right jamb of the doorway is very much wasted, but the scene is evidently the interview with Simeon and Anna. Mary sits on a chair with Jesus on her knee, and a male figure kneels in front bending towards her. Two other figures completed the group. VI. The last scene is Jesus at the Temple. The figure of the young Christ is shewn kneeling at the side of a small architectural model carved with an archway, buttresses, and pinnacles. The figures of Joseph and Mary have disappeared, all but the points of attachment to the cornice. It is possible that the inscription on the scroll in the hands of the crouching figure which was carved at the end of the cornice on the right, close to the pier, had a direct reference to this story. But the inscription is now illegible.
In general design this Rood Screen strikingly resembles that in Glasgow Cathedral, already described. The delicacy of the sculpture work, the peculiar disposition of the limbs of the figures, the careful regard to a suitable perspective, and the fidelity and minuteness with which the story is illustrated, all point to its having been the work of John Morow.
It may be asserted confidently that it was erected at the beginning of the sixteenth century, for provost George Hepburn, successor to Andrew Stewart.17 Uncle to the first earl of Bothwell, he was a member of the most powerful family in Scotland. He was chosen abbot of Arbroath in the year 1502, and was made Lord High Treasurer and Bishop of the Isles in 1509. He died on the field of Flodden, 9th September, 1513.18
Galloway.19 – Crossing from Nithsdale into Galloway by the ancient bridge which may still retain some fragments of the early structure erected by Dervorgilla, the wife of Balliol, it is necessary to visit four religious houses – Sweetheart Abbey, Dundrennan Abbey, Whithorn Cathedral, and Glenluce Abbey – in order to discover, if possible, the extent and character of John Morow’s work in Galloway.
Sweetheart Abbey,20 or, as it is sometimes called, New Abbey, was founded by Lady Dervorgilla21 in memory of her husband, John Balliol, the founder of Balliol College, Oxford,22 who died in the year 1268.23 Bower says that the abbey was begun in 1275.24 The heart of Balliol was embalmed and enclosed in an ivory casket, and afterwards placed in the abbey near to the high altar. Dervorgilla died at Kempston, on 28th January, 1289,25 and was buried at Sweetheart Abbey, with the heart of her husband on her bosom.26 Although the church of the abbey is now roofless, the masonwork is still almost perfect.27 A considerable portion of the precinct wall is preserved. The old parish church which stood on the west side of the cloister, and was built of the ruins of the conventual buildings in the year 1731,28 has now been removed. Part of the east side of the cloister remains, and here, in the small fragment of the ruined chapter-house, the window on the top of an early sill is the only part of the building erected so late as the end of the fifteenth century. The fragment, however, is of little value, and is in a completely ruinous state. But the pile of sculptured stones lying in a corner of the south transept must be examined. They belonged to an altar tomb and are exquisitely carved. Six of the side panels are preserved. They measure about 18 inches high by 17 inches broad, and all are decorated with a large quatrefoil. The shield in the centre of one panel bears a lion rampant; another shield bears a fleur-de-lis with three mullets in chief; whilst a third shield is blank. The centre of the other panels are decorated with a large rose. The four remaining stones formed part of the moulded and chamfered cope. Three of the corner stones are preserved, and one from a side. The rough tooling on the upper surface may be held to indicate that the tomb was surmounted by an effigy. On the chamfered edge of the cope there is this interesting inscription:-
(1) GILLA * FUDATRIX *
(2) HUJUS * MONA
(3) STII * QUE * OBIIT *
(4) * M * CC * LXXX * IIII 29
These ten stones are all that remain of the tomb of the loving and generous Dervorgilla. But it was not erected immediately after her death in 1289. It was erected at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It would be a difficult task to prove that John Morow was the inventor of the style of letter employed, as shewn in the illustration of the best preserved stone, or that he was the first to use it in Scotland. Yet it will be shewn that whilst in his work at the end of the fifteenth century, at Melrose, Paisley, and Glasgow, his inscriptions exhibit a purely Gothic character, in his work
Dundrennan Abbey was founded by King David I. and Fergus, lord of Galloway, about the year 1142,30 but no work of this date exists. The building is almost entirely of one style of art, – the transition from the romanesque to the pointed style, – and was probably erected about the year 1190. It is a typical example of the austere simplicity characteristic of the early work of the Cistercian order. The abbey is in ruins, and little more remains than the roofless choir and transepts. The latest work is the richly-moulded chapter-house of the end of the thirteenth century.
The cathedral and priory at Whithorn were founded by Fergus, lord of Galloway,31 early
Although it is far removed from any village the Abbey of Glenluce, which was founded by Rolland, lord of Galloway,36 about the year 1190, has been almost entirely destroyed.
The reason which led to the opinion that the late work at Whithorn was not executed by John Morow, although it was under his charge, operates also in connection with this work at Glenluce. The beauty which characterises his work at Paisley, Glasgow, Lincluden, and Sweetheart Abbey, already described, is present in a most marked degree at St. Andrews and Melrose, stamping the whole with an unmistakable individuality. But this quality is absent in the work at Whithorn and Glenluce, and, although a difficult question in mediaeval practice is opened up, it is only possible to suggest that those works were required at a time when he was busily employed elsewhere.
P. MACGREGOR CHALMERS.”
(To be concluded.)