AMONG the earliest, as he was one of the most celebrated, of the Episcopi Britannorum was Kentigern, the evangelist of the Strathclyde Britons, and the founder of the see of Glasgow. As Columba was the founder of the Christian Church among the Picts, so Kentigern was the great agent in the revolution which again, after a period of darkness, christianized Cumbria. We have his life written by Jocelin, a monk of Furness, to whom the task was intrusted by the bishop of the same name, formerly abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Melrose, and who was appointed to the see of Glasgow in 1174. The memoir by the monk contains much that is absurd – embodying as it does many legends which are evidently the invention of an age long posterior to that of Kentigern, but there is no ground for thinking, as some have supposed, that the whole history is fabulous. On the contrary, there is reason to believe that, like many others of our early authorities, it contains trustworthy fragments of authentic history, but tampered with for ecclesiastical purposes.
Jocelin informs us that, by the instructions of the bishop his patron, he visited the localities and sought out all the sources from which information could be obtained. Among others he found a missal, then, as he tells us, in use in the Cathedral; and it is curious to us, who enjoy the light of the nineteenth century, to think that in the old High Church of Glasgow there were read from this ancient manuscript to the early inhabitants of the city, as parts of divine service, such stories as that of the profligate Queen of Cadzow and her ring; and how Kentigern restored to life a tame robin whose head had been accidentally torn off; and how he lighted the refectory fire by breathing on a frozen twig plucked from a hedge, causing it to burst into flame, and such like fairy tales. It would be unsafe to conclude, however, that in the earlier records from which the monk of Furness drew his materials the legends appeared in the form in which he presented them, and in which they appear in the Breviary of Aberdeen. Some of them may have had their origin in very simple occurrences of easy explanation, and the form in which they have reached us is accounted for by the tendency of the Church of Rome in the middle ages to endow their adopted saints with miraculous powers. What Mr. Burton says of Adamnan’s history may be applied to that of Jocelin, but making perhaps a still larger allowance for the later time in which the monk of Furness wrote. “No doubt,” says Mr. Burton, “the great bulk of the life of Columba is occupied by vaticination and miraculous fable. But there are small facts to be found in the telling of the large fiction, and if we disbelieve all narratives because they have the supernatural in them it is difficult to say at what period true ecclesiastical history commenced, or, speaking strictly, is to commence.”1
It is important as it is interesting to note that in the preface to his work, Jocelin informs us that he found in the old manuscript referred to – read in the Cathedral though it was – quoddam sannæ doctrinæ et Catholicæ fidei adversus. Finding, besides, as he farther states, that the style and composition were defective, he made search for some better authority, and he was rewarded by discovering another treatise stilo scotico dictatum – containing many solecisms, he admits, but giving a more full and accurate account of the life and acts of the saint. It is possible that this may have been the Life which the Bollandists say was written by St. Asaph, but of which no trace now remains.2 Such as it was, Jocelin found that unfortunately it was, like the other, defiled by what he calls doctrinal error. From these statements of the monkish chronicler there can be little doubt that the two ancient records from which he derived a portion at least, and probably the most authentic portion, of his information, belonged to the early period when the purer faith of Columba and Kentigern and Asaph was preached in Scotland. That the religious views of the earlier writers should differ very much from those held by a devoted adherent of the Church of Rome in the twelfth century is only what might be expected. By that time the greater part of what we regard as the errors of that system had come to prevail. In the tenth century corruption, both in doctrine and morals, had become general; and two centuries later, when Jocelin should regard as error what he would find recorded in the writings of the Irish ecclesiastics. From these materials, however, such as they were, but rejoicing the “errors,” the monk of Furness compiled the Life of Kentigern which we now possess; and making all due allowance for the views of the writer, it really is, what Bishop Forbes calls it, a charming piece of mediæval biography.
Every archæologist knows of course that the language in which the oldest of these records was written – stilo scotico – is not in any way to be confounded with what we now understand as the Scottish dialect. It was not by any means, as a recent writer has supposed, the vulgar or vernacular speech prevalent in the west of Scotland – not very different from the nascent English found in Piers Plowman and the earlier romances.3 It is no doubt quite probable, as I shall have occasion to show afterwards, that when Jocelin wrote his history the vernacular spoken in Glasgow had already assumed very much the form of later times; but when he speaks of his authority as stilo scotico dictatum we may be certain it was in the Irish language. No part of Scotland was known by that name till the tenth century, and not till even after that period was Strathclyde included in the designation. The only Scotia of the time of Kentigern, and for long after, was Ireland, and the statement in Adamnan’s interesting biography that Columba came de scotia ad Britanniam would settle the point were there not so many other confirmations of it.
There are two accounts of the date of Kentigern’s birth. One places it in the year 518, and the other in 527. The latter is, I think, the more probable. The date of his appearance on the banks of the Clyde has been generally fixed as the year 560, but it must have been ten years earlier. Jocelin states that he was consecrated a bishop at the age of twenty-five, so that (assuming his birth to have been in 527) the date of consecration must have been 552. But Jocelin also tells us that it was not till after he had been some time in Glasgow that he was made a bishop, and if we allow only two years for this previous residence, his advent to Glasgow could not have been later than 550.
He was not, however, the first missionary who had come to that district. During the Roman occupation the Christian religion had been introduced to our island under their auspices; and probably as early as the second century there was a Christian church in Roman Britain. The paganism which it came to supercede has been called Druidical, but it had certainly nothing in common with the repulsive system attributed to the Druids of Gaul, with its human sacrifices and Baal worship. As little had it any connection with the singular stone erections which we find at Stonehenge and elsewhere, which were simply sepulchral monuments, and not, as is popularly supposed, temples or altars.4 According to Mr. Skene, the paganism of Scotland was the same as what prevailed among the Picts of Ireland: “a sort of fetichism which peopled all the objects of nature with malignant beings, to whose agency its phenomena were attributed; while a class of persons termed Magi and Druadh or Druada exercised great influence among the people, from a belief that they were able through their aid to practise a species of magic or witchcraft, which might either be used to benefit those who sought their assistance, or to injure those to whom they were opposed.”5
Among the earliest of the Christian missionaries was Ninian, who had been trained at Rome in the doctrine and discipline of the Western Church, and who appears to have built a cell on the banks of the Molendinar towards the end of the fourth century. All that we know of his connection with Glasgow is from the account of the monk of Furness, which bears that when Kentigern came to Strathclyde he made his settlement “near a certain cemetery which had long before “been consecrated by St. Ninian,” and which, at the time when Jocelin wrote, was “encircled by a delicious density of overshadowing trees.” But the probability is that Ninian did not long remain there, and this may be inferred from the fact that although he had consecrated the cemetery, no internment had ever taken place in it – the interment there by Kentigern of the old saint Fregus or Fergus, to be presently noticed, having been, according to Jocelin, “the first burial in that place where afterwards many bodies were buried in peace.” The chief labours of Ninian were among the neighbouring Picts. The southern division of that people was certainly converted to Christianity at an earlier period than the Strathclyde Britons, and probably by Ninian, who afterwards built his church at Candida Casa,* or Whithorn, in Galloway, in the year 397. If Ninian made any converts at Glasgow they must have afterwards lapsed into apostasy.
Before the end of the fourth century Christianity had also been introduced among the Scots in Ireland – whether by Ninian or at an earlier period does not appear; but Ninian is said to have left his settlement at Candida Casa at the request of his mother and relations in the last years of his life, and to have gone to Ireland, where, at a beautiful place called Cluain Coner, granted him by the king, he built a large monastery, in which he died.6 Soon afterwards the dominion of the Romans in Britain, after an occupation of nearly four hundred years, came to an end (A.D. 410), and they abandoned the island for ever.
There now followed a long period of darkness. Britain had practically ceased to be a part of the Roman Empire. Her intercourse with the Continent had been almost entirely cut off; and, with the exception of a notice of the temporary prevalence of the Pelagian heresy in the British Church, all is silence for a century and a half.7
During this period it was chiefly in the Irish Church that the light of Christianity was preserved, and it was probably maintained there in a comparatively pure and primitive state. This may be inferred from the account given of himself by Columbanus or Colmanus when, with a small band of missionaries, he appeared in Gaul in 590. When asked who they were and whence they came, his answer was: “We are Irish, dwelling at the very ends of the earth. We be men who receive nought beyond the doctrine of the evangelists and apostles. The catholic faith as it was first delivered by the successors of the holy apostles is still maintained among us with unchanged fidelity.” They did not acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope: on the contrary, they recognized only “one head, our Lord.” They maintained that the Pope’s jurisdiction as Bishop of Rome did not extend beyond the limits of the Roman Empire, and when opposed by the clergy of Gaul on account of observances which were characterized as schismatical, Columbanus, in a letter to the Pope, said in effect: “I am a missionary from a church of God among the barbarians, and though temporarily within the limits of your territorial jurisdiction, and bound to regard you with respect, I claim the right to follow the customs of our own church.”8
As illustrating farther the separate and independent position of the church in our islands, may be mentioned the interesting fact that in the latter half of the fifth century, and for long afterwards, an old Latin version of the Scriptures peculiar to the British Isles was in use in the Scoto-Britannic churches differing largely both from the Vulgate and from the known ante-Hieronyman versions.9 It is questionable if the Vulgate was known to St. Patrick.
The episcopal system in the form it had assumed on the Continent in the time of Columbanus, or as it now exists, was unknown in the early British churches. The monastic element prevailed: the sacerdotal was all but unknown. There was episcopacy in the church, but it was not diocesan episcopacy. The bishops were no doubt treated as a superior order. They were specially invested with functions of consecrating the elements at the communion, and of conferring the right of ordination, but practically their episcopacy was a personal more than an official dignity. They were, in short, nothing more than the ministers of parishes, and in many instances they were subject to the abbots.10 They were very numerous. We know from Nennius that when St. Patrick founded in Ireland 365 churches he at the same time ordained 365 bishops, and it was the complaint of St. Bernard and other assailants of the Irish Church that they had a bishop for every congregation. In many instances indeed we find that a single religious community worshipping in one place had several bishops.11
Of this early and purer primitive church was Columba – saint, soldier, statesman – one of “the twelve apostles of Ireland” who in the year 563 sailed from Ireland to Britain and became the founder of the world-renowned island monastery, and the head of the Christian church in Scotland. Although the birth and early life of Kentigern are veiled in obscurity there can be little doubt that his education and his religious views when he came to Strathclyde were the same as those of his great contemporary. In doctrine and matters of observance both of these eminent missionaries followed the earlier apostolic type, and opposed themselves to the differences, in matters of faith as well as practice, which had crept into the Western Church during the period when the intercourse between it and the British churches had been interrupted. We know from Adamnan that the great instrument employed by Columba in the conversion of the pagan tribes was the simple preaching of the word of God, and the same means were no doubt followed by Kentigern.
But although a pure doctrine was preached the earliest “conversions” at the first introduction of Christianity were often of a very wholesale character. Clanship, as an eminent Celtic scholar12 has justly said, is the true key of Irish history – political and ecclesiastical. Upon the clan Christianity was engrafted in the monastic form. When the Christian missionaries first went to Ireland they found the clans existing there as the primitive form of government, with numerous chieftains virtually independent, and one or more nominal kings. St. Patrick and his followers always addressed themselves in the first instance to the chieftain, and with his conversion followed that of the clan or sept.13 The followed the establishment of a monastery, and it was constituted on the model of a family. The abbot was the father: the monks his children. The society at Iona was known as “the family of Hy.”
The advent of Kentigern to the banks of the Clyde occurred at a momentous period in the history of Scotland. The dominion of the Romans had come to an end more than a century before, and the light and civilization which they had brought with them had now become all but extinguished. The tribes which had, nominally at least, embraced Christianity had almost all relapsed into heathenism, and the kingdom was entering upon a long period of darkness, confusion, and anarchy. The Romans, indeed, had never practically obtained a footing in Scotland beyond the great fortified wall which they had erected between the Clyde and the Forth, and which, beginning at Bridgness near Carriden, ended at Chapelhill near West Kilpatrick on the Clyde – a distance of twenty-seven miles. But their occupation necessarily tended to diffuse a considerable amount of civilization among the tribes or nations within their lines, between whom and the barbarians to the north of the wall there must have been, in this respect, a marked contrast. When the Romans withdrew, however, a great change followed. The contest which succeeded their departure was one not merely for the possession of the Roman Territory, but for the succession to her dominion in the land. “The competing parties consisted, on the one hand, of the provincial Britons who had just emerged from under the Roman rule, and on the other, of those independent tribes, partly inhabitants of the island and partly piratical adventurers from other regions, who had so frequently ravaged the Roman province, and now endeavoured to snatch the prize from the provincial Britons and from each other. The races engaged in this struggle were four – the Britons, the Picts, the Scots, and the Saxons or Angles. The two former were indigenous, the two latter foreign settlers.”14
It was within this great wall that Kentigern constructed his monastery, but in his time the wall had ceased to form a barrier to the tribes beyond, and all signs of civilization were rapidly disappearing.
The kingdom of the Britons had at this time no territorial designation, but its rulers were styled kings of Alcluith,** and belonged to that party of the Britons who bore the peculiar name of Romans, and claimed descent from the ancient Roman rulers in Britain. The kingdom comprehended the greater part of Cumberland and Westmoreland, with the counties of Dumfries, Ayr, Renfrew, Lanark, and Peebles, and part of Dunbarton. The population embraced the two varieties of the British race, the southern half being Cymric or Welsh and the northern being the Damnonii, who belonged to the Cornish variety. The capital was the Castle of Dunbarton, termed by the Britons Alcluith – the Rock of Clyde, Ail being Welsh for a rock. By the Gaelic people it was called Dunbreatan, or the Fort of the Britons. Bede, writing in the eighth century, speaks of Dunbarton as the city called Alcuith, the chief fastness of the Britons. Glasgow at that time must have been all but unknown.
The grandfather of Kentigern is said to have been a British king, and his mother Thaney or Tenew, the daughter of King Leudanus, a pagan prince. She is said to have been a believer in Christianity, but not baptized. Jocelin gives two etymologies of the name of the saint. One is that it means capitis dominus; the other that it is derived from Kyen, albanice, caput, and tigern, dominus. The first is the meaning in Welsh, and the second the same meaning in Gaelic. The Welsh form Cyndeyrn is from Cyn, chief or principal, that is, capitalis, and Teyrn – in composition Deyrn, dominus. The Gaelic form is Ceanntighearn, from Ceann, a head, caput, and Tighearn, lord.15
Kentigern, according to Jocelin, spent his diaconate under Servanus at the Cistercian settlement at Culross. The old bishop, he says, was much attached to him, and was accustomed to address him by the familiar appellation of Munchu, carus amicus. The name is of Welsh derivation – mwyn, clemens, urbanus, and cu or chu, carus. In composition cu becomes in Welsh gu: hence Mungu. And so in process of time Kentigern came to be popularly known as St. Mungo, by which name, says his biographer, “even until the present time the common people are frequently used to call him and to invoke him in their necessities.” At an early age, according to the same account, he left Servanus and came to Strathclyde. According to Mr. Skene, however – by whose admirable work on early Scottish history so much light has been thrown on this dark period – the hitherto received accounts which connect Kentigern with Servanus must be discarded, for there are satisfactory reasons for concluding that Servanus lived two centuries later. Be that as it may, the patron saint of Glasgow did certainly not receive his consecration from Servanus and Palladius, as Professor Innes has supposed.16 By the custom of the Scottish Church only one bishop was necessary for the consecration of another bishop, and this practice was followed in the case of Kentigern. He was ordained by a single bishop, who was invited from Ireland for that purpose.
Professor Innes points out that in the Inquisitio of David,*** to be afterwards noticed, it is recorded that Kentigern was ordained bishop of Cumbria; but the statement in the Inquisitio is scarcely correct. The district had no doubt come to be called Cumbria in David’s time, but it was not so called in the time of Kentigern, nor for long afterwards. The diocese, if it could be so called, over which this early Christian missionary presided was probably no larger than the small territory occupied by the Christian community of which he was the head. The names Cumbri and Cumbria were not applied to any part of the territories or people of Britain prior to the tenth century. Not even in David’s time, not ill long afterwards, had Scotland any recognized capital. The king’s court moved from place to place, resting mostly in the great abbeys; but David had a dwelling on the castle rock of Edinburgh as a place of refuge against the surprise of an enemy.
The legend which relates the circumstances under which Kentigern is said to have come to Glasgow isa interesting, connected as it is with the name of the aisle or crypt which forms the foundation of what was intended to have been the southern transept of the Cathedral. This portion of the building has been improperly called Blackadder’s Aisle – its real name, which is inscribed on it, having, as I have pointed out elsewhere,17 apparently escaped observation. The legend is that on the same night on which he left Servanus Kentigern lodged in the house or cell of a holy man named Fergus, dwelling in a place called Kearnach, to whom it had been revealed that he should not die till he had seen the holy Kentigern. He expired immediately after the saint entered his house, and Kentigern having placed the body on a car, to which were yoked two wild bulls, he commanded them to carry it to the place ordained of the Lord. This they meekly did, and, followed by the saint and a great multitude, carried the body to Glasgow, then, as the legend says, called Cathures, where they rested beneath certain ancient trees near a forsaken cemetry, which had been hallowed by St. Ninian of Galloway. Here the remains of the good Fergus were committed to the earth, and over what was supposed, no doubt, to be the very spot of his interment the south transept of the Cathedral was founded, and the lower aisle of crypt dedicated to Fergus. This fact is recorded in the interesting inscription to which I have referred. It is in long Gothic letters on a stone in the roof over the entrance, on which is also carved a rude representation of the dead saint extended on the car. The words are, this is the ile of car fergus.**** What car means I do not know. The story in its main features may be true. It is in no way improbable that Kentigern buried here one of the early Christians bearing the name recorded. At all events as the aisle is actually dedicated to Fergus, and bears his name, it is obviously improper to call it Blackadder’s Aisle. It would appear, indeed, that it was not known by that name till a period comparatively recent, for it is called “Fergus Isle” in a minute of the Kirk-session in November 1648, recommending that it should be assigned as a burial-place for the ministers.
Some time after he had settled at “Cathures” – whatever that word may mean – Kentigern was obliged, in consequence of the persecution of an apostate British prince named Morken, to take shelter in North Wales, where, in the vale of Clwyd, he constructed a monastery, and founded the church of Llanelwy, afterwards called St. Asaph.
It should be explained that before the advent of Kentigern to Glasgow four kings of the Britons were engaged in conflict with the Saxons. One of these kings, Rhydderch or Rederchen, was at the head of that party among the Britons who were, as already mentioned, termed Romans, from their supposed descent from Roman soldiers or Roman citizens, and this king appears to have embraced Christianity after its introduction by St. Ninian. The other kings belonged to a party which, though it had also embraced Christianity, had apostatized, and reverted to a semi-paganism fostered by their bards; and one of these kings having obtained an ascendency in Strathclyde opposed and persecuted Kentigern, and obliged him to fly, as I have said, to North Wales. Among these four kings the dissensions broke at last into open rupture, and a great battle took place on the river Esk near Carlisle in the year 573, which resulted in the victory of the Christian party, and the establishment of Rhydderch as king of the Cumbrian Britons. On this event Kentigern was invited to return, and having appointed Asaph, one of his monks, to be his successor, he left North Wales. On his way back he resided for a time at Hoddam in Dumfriesshire. According to one tradition he also dwelt for some years at Lockerwort, near Borthwick, and there are some historical indications that such may have been the fact. The churches of Borthwick and Pennicuik were dedicated to him, and the spring in the manse garden at Borthwick is still known as St. Mungo’s well. It may have been for this reason that in the reign of David I. the bishop of St. Andrews, with consent, or more probably by command, of the king and prince, conveyed the church of Lockerwort or Borthwick to the bishop of Glasgow.
On the return of Kentigern to Strathclyde he was gladly received by the king, by whom he was protected until the death of the latter in 603. Rhydderch is mentioned by Adamnan as reigning at Alclyde or Dunbarton at the time of St. Columba, and according to Jocelin he had also a manorial residence at Partick, near Glasgow. He speaks of Rhydderch as residing shortly before his death “in the royal house which was called Pertnech,” by which no doubt Partick is meant. It is interesting to note that one of the old sculptured stones of Scotland found near Yarrow kirk, in Selkirkshire, and which attracted the attention of Sir Walter Scott, is conjectured by Dr. Wilson to have been erected in memory of the two sons of this old British king.18
Kentigern now took up his residence, with his colony of converts, on the banks of the then beautiful stream “vocabulo Melindonor,” where he had buried Fergus, and where he and his followers maintained themselves by rural industry and by the practice of the arts of peaceful life. In this they followed the custom of the second period of the early Scottish Church, which was in its form monastic, but with a monasticism strongly mixed up with active secular life.19 In its first and earliest form the Scottish Church exhibits a secular clergy founding churches; in its second we find a clergy observing rules and founding monasteries, of which that of Ninian at Candida Casa was perhaps the first. In these communities the elders gave themselves up to devotion and the service of the church, and to transcribing the Scriptures and works of devotion, while the remainder were occupied in the labours of the field and mechanical work. Of such a community Jocelin no doubt gives a correct account when he is describing the arrangements of the monastery constructed by Kentigern at St. Asaph’s. Of the multitude who came to the saint there, and brought their children for instruction, Kentigern, he says, appointed a portion who were unlettered to the duty of agriculture, the care of the cattle, and other necessary duties outside the monastery. Another portion he assigned to duties within the inclosure, such as preparing food, erecting workshops, and doing other ordinary work; and the remainder who were lettered he appointed to the celebration of divine service in the church by day and by night. The same arrangement appears to have prevailed at Iona, and the description which we possess of that monastery by Adamnan, and of the habits of the community, may be accepted as applicable to the settlement of Kentigern at Glasgow. At Iona the erections included a church with an altar, and a hospitium, or house of entertainment for strangers; a space including the separate huts or bothies of the monks; a dwelling-place for Columba himself, styled domus; offices for laying up the produce of their fields, and a place or plateau surrounded by the various portions of the monastery. No vestige remains of these old erections. The buildings now on the island are the remains of the Benedictine monastery and nunnery founded by Reginald, Lord of the Isles, in 1203. The Abbey Church was built shortly before. The first buildings were constructed entirely of timber and wicker-work. The monks were employed in reading and prayer, in the rearing and repairing of buildings, in the cultivation of the ground, and in the tending of cattle. They were summoned to their devotions by a bell. They were not barefooted, but substantially shod with some kind of calceus or sandals. They possessed wheeled vehicles, and they used sailing vessels made of hides stretched on wicker-work, which are thus alluded to in an old stanza:-
“With their curachs across the sea
And for rowing threescore men.”20
The monks of later times lived much like these old communities. As a rule they held a great part of their lands in their own hands, and cultivated them by their serfs or villains in their several granges. The grange itself, the chief house of each of the abbey baronies, must have been a spacious farm steading. In it were gathered the cattle, implements, and stores, needed for the cultivation of their demesne lands, and the serfs of carles who cultivated it lived there, with their women and families. A monk or lay brother superintended the whole.21 I am not aware that any remains of these exist in Scotland, with the exception of an old tower at Huntlaw; near Hassendean, in Roxburgh, still called the Monks Tower, where there was a grange belonging to the Abbey of Paisley.22 But there is yet to be seen at Torquay, in the present farm steading of Ilsham, a grange which exactly corresponds with the description of Mr. Innes. It was the home farm of Tor Abbey, a very ancient foundation. The massive farm buildings still in use there, remain as they were in the time of the monks, and in the centre is a square tower divided into three stories, in which lived the monk who superintended the farm. the lower part was appropriated to stores. The centre, approached by a massive flight of steps, was his oratory or chapel, and above was his dormitory. In the farm buildings can still be seen the loft, with its fire-place, in which the nativi or serfs were accommodated. Outside of the grange dwelt the cottarii or cottars, a class higher than what are now called cottars, as each occupant was the tenant of from one to nine acres of land, for which they rendered certain services as well as a money payment.23
In like manner as lived the monks at Iona lived Kentigern and his followers at Glasgow under the shade of the trees of St. Ninian, and here he was visited by his celebrated contemporary Columba, who came from Iona with a great following, multa discipulorum turba et aliorum. On this occasion it is recorded by Jocelin that the Irish saint presented Kentigern with a crozier, virga de simplice ligno. This crozier of staff appears to have found its way to Ripon, originally a monastery founded for a branch of the Scottish Church, which owned Hi, or Iona, for its head; and Fordun, who wrote at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and who, however doubtful of his authority when he deals with ancient history, may be trusted for contemporary events, says that in his time it was still to be seen in the church of St. Wilfrid at Ripon, where it was held in great veneration, and preserved in a case inlaid with gold and pearls. In form it was in all probability similar to the “Bachal More,” or pastoral staff of St. Moloch, represented in the subjoined cut, and now in the possession of the Duke of Argyll. It is a black thorn stick with traces of a metal covering – the latter, no doubt, the addition of a more recent period. Like other ancient croziers, it is very short, measuring only two feet ten inches in length. Such was probably the pastoral staff of Kentigern.
His costume is thus given by the monk of Furness, who may have found the description in the ancient Irish record which he had dis covered. “He wore,” says Jocelin, “a shirt of roughest haircloth next his skin, and over it a garment made of the skins of goats, and a close hood like that of a fisherman. Above this garment, concealed by a white alb, he wore over his neck a long stole. He had a pastoral staff, not rounded, or gilt, or gemmed, as is now seen with those high places, but of plain wood, yet curved back, tamen reflexum. He carried in his hand a manual, always ready for the exercise of his ministry whenever necessity or cause demanded. Thus,” adds his biographer, “by the whiteness of his dress he expressed the piety of the inner man and avoided vainglory.” He is described as tall of stature, of a robust constitution, and capable of enduring great fatigue both of body and mind. He was of a mild and gentle temperament, had the spirit of a true missionary, and was indefatigable in the exercise of his ministry. Such was the first bishop of Glasgow. He died in the year 603, full of years, leaving a name which has come down to us as a bright light out of an age when a very profound darkness prevailed in Scotland.
The monastic settlement formed by Kentigern and his followers was no doubt a very simple affair – nothing more, indeed, than a rude village of huts, constructed probably of wood and wattles. The huts at Iona, as we have seen, were so constructed, and this was, in all likelihood, the case with most of the monastic houses and oratories down to the twelfth or thirteenth centuries.24 In the life of Columba we read that when he went to the monastery of Mobhi Clairenach, on the banks of the river Finglass, where no fewer than fifty scholars were assembled, he found their “huts or bothies,” botha, by the water or river; and it is told of Mochasi, abbot of Nendrum, that on one occasion he went with seven score young men “to cut wattles to make the church.” The so-called cathedral of Lindisfarne, built by disciples of Columba, was merely an edifice of wood thatched with reeds “after the manner of the Scots,” that is, of the Irish.25
But even at that early time it is certain that, so far as the churches were concerned, some of them were built of stone, and in a few cases the whole of the monastic buildings were constructed of that material. A monastery established by Columba in one of the Gaveloch islands was constructed entirely of stone, and remains of it, consisting of two beehive-shaped cells, still exist.26 There is another interesting example of a stone-cell adjoining the ruins of the beautiful old church of St. Blane in Bute, and which is supposed to have been erected by St. Chattan, or Cathan, the uncle of St. Blane, before the middle of the sixth century. It is a circular building, constructed of irregular-shaped blocks of stone, not dressed, but chosen so as to fit each other, and some of them of great size. There are no small stones for packing, but probably the interstices were filled with turn and mud. It is thirty-three feet six inches in diameter, and the walls are eight feet six inches thick. This is not unlike the cell constructed by St. Cuthbert on the island of Farne in the year 670, as described by Bede. It was “nearly circular, constructed not of hewn stone nor of brick and mortar, but of unwrought stones and turf. Of these stones some were of such a size that it seemed scarcely possible for four men to lift them. It was divided into two parts – an oratory, namely, and another dwelling suited for common uses.”
In Ireland there are many such remains, but there is every reason to believe that stone churches existed in Scotland before they were known in Ireland. According to Dr. Petrie, a very reliable authority, there were no stone churches in Ireland before the time of St. Patrick; and he is of opinion that the very earliest church in Ireland built of that material was built by Patrick at Daimhliag, now Duleek, in Meath. That St. Patrick was the first to erect stone churches there is confirmed by an ancient poem quoted by Dr. Petrie,27 and which he accepts as authentic, in which the various persons who constituted the household of Patrick are enumerated, and among them the names of his three stonemasons, with the remark that they were the first builders of Daimhliags or stone churches in Ireland. The passage is as follows:-
“His three masons, good was their intelligence,
Caeman, Cruithnec, Luchraed strong:
They made damliags first
In Erin: eminent their history.”28
This was certainly not earlier than the middle of the fifth century. But the church at Candida Casa, which we know was built of stone in the Roman style – insolito Britonnibus more, as Bede expresses it – was erected by Ninian in 397, at least half a century earlier than the church at Duleek. Ninian, as I have said, afterwards left Candida Casa and passed over to Ireland, where he built the large monastery in which he died; and as this was the first introduction of monachism into Ireland, so it is not improbable that Ninian was the first to introduce there the building of stone churches, the knowledge of which he had acquired at Tours on his return from Rome, although the first actual erections may have been made under the directions of Patrick.
If the first church at Glasgow was of stone, the probability is that it was similar in form to those interesting erections combining church and cell, of which examples known to have been constructed at that very time still remain in Ireland, and of which another example exists in the little island of Inchcolm, in the Firth of Forth. The latter is described in Dr. Wilson’s Prehistoric Annals as “an irregular quadrangle, measuring externally only 21½ feet in greatest length. Internally it is little more than 6 feet in breadth at the east end, where probably the stone altar table stood under its small window; while it diminishes to 4 feet 9 inches at the west end. The vaulted ceiling is constructed of rude masonry, with a triangular wedge for the key-stone; and over this it is roofed with square stones laid in regular courses.”29 Dr. Petrie was of opinion that his was one of the cells belonging to the period of Columba, erected in all probability by one of Columba’s disciples who had made his way from Iona to the eastern territories of the Picts.
The first church or oratory at Glasgow may have been constructed in the same way. Such as they were, these early erections – the church and the adjoining dwelling-places – were the origin of the city of Glasgow.
10 thoughts on “The First Bishop, pp.1-18.”
Interesting – read every word, particularly about the origins of St Kentigern.
The information’s great though I don’t feel MacGeorge writes in quite as amiable a fashion as Grant does in his ‘Old and New Edinburgh’.
Not sure I read that one – I confess to less interest in Edinburgh!