The 18th Conference of the Scottish Medievalists was held at the University of Stirling, 4-5 January 1975. Minutes Secretary Edward J. Cowan.
18th Conference Saturday 4 January
4.20 p.m. Aspects of Myth and Political Theory in Mediaeval Scotland
Chairman: Dr I. Rae
Saints and their cults in Scotland: John Simpson
The paper dealt with the period from the end of the eleventh century to the Reformation. This period corresponds reasonably neatly with an epoch in the Western Church as a whole, beginning with the Gregorian reforms. It corresponds less neatly with an epoch in that Church’s evolving view of saints, since it was in the fourteenth century that the papal monopoly of canonisation was enshrined in canon law, and in the seventeenth that the canonising process was further formalised. But the general trend towards a unified Western viewpoint on saints is clear enough.
It has been argued that the Scottish church, in the period under discussion, made little contribution to the Kalendar of saints. But. the implication of this, even if it is accepted, is not necessarily that spiritual fervour in Scotland was low. For one thing, there is a dearth of surviving liturgical evidence from which to draw conclusions.
The Western Church had some saints, mostly from the earliest days, who were universally venerated. There were many saints of purely local reputation. Each church province venerated its own selection of universal and local saints, and the selection changed with time.
The apparent gap in hagiographical writing in Scotland between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries may be the product merely of the loss of manuscripts. Even if a real gap existed, the local saints from the Celtic church period must have survived in oral tradition, in order to be brought again to prominence in the fifteenth century development of ecclesiastical nationalism as described by Monsignior McRoberts.
The Scots who were added to the Kalendar within our period fulfilled most of the demands that people made on their saints in that period: Margaret, and less officially her son David I, as symbolising the royal family, and Gilbert of Caithness as a pioneering bishop. Such saints have clear parallels in other comparable European countries. A universal saint, Andrew, was thoroughly naturalised, not least during the Independence struggle: he came to have an importance for Scots which no purely Scottish saint could have had. There was no need, in a country long Christianised, for strong men for Christ like Olaf of Norway, Erik of Sweden, or nearer home St Magnus. Nor did Scottish monarchs tend to harass the church into producing saintly defenders of church rights, as happened in England. It may be noted that the first and greatest of such English saints, Thomas Becket , was embraced by the Scots without any discernible chauvinism.
Scotland, then, perhaps contributed to the mediaeval pattern of sanctity to the degree we might reasonably expect of one of the smaller and remoter provinces of the Western Church. But the subject, a peculiarly rich one for mediaevalists as Dom David Knowles demonstrated, deserves much further study in Scotland.
Scottish Kingship and the Declaration. of Arbroath: E.J. Cowan
This paper attempted to uncover some of the possible sources for the ideas in the Declaration of Arbroath particularly the rather startling notion that if Bruce attempts to subject Scotland to the English he will be driven out. The available secondary literature pays relatively little attention to the possible sources which lie behind the declaration. In the Policraticum John of Salisbury argued that Libertas cannot be separated from virtue and in a most suggestive passage says that since liberty is the greatest good in life and since it alone can strike off the hateful yoke of slavery ‘it has been the opinion of philosophers that men should die, if need arose, for the sake of virtue, which the only reason for living’.
Most commentators are agreed that the hand behind the declaration also wrote the declaration of the Scottish clergy in 1310 and that the hand belonged to Bernard de Linton. The Irish Remonstrance of 1318 has recently been suggested as another candidate for the list. A comparison of these three documents makes it quite obvious that each employs the rhetoric of tyranny on which subject the recognised, medieval authority was John of Salisbury. The Scots could hardly state baldly to the Pope that either Edward I or Edward II were tyrants, but they did so implicitly through the unmistakable language which they employed. John’s works were very well known throughout Christendom but de Linton as Abbet of Arbroath, which abbey was dedicated to Becket, bight be expected to have an intimate knowledge of them.
Commentators have differed in their precise interpretation of the passage on Bruce’s possible deposition, some dismissing it altogether. Lurking in the background however was the shade of John Balliol. Kantcrowicz Ullman, Tierney and Peters among others have pointed to the growth of early constitutionalism in the fourteenth century as a result of the application to secular affairs of theories developed by canon lawyers. Celestine V, Adolf of Nassau and Edward II followed one another into the abyss of deposition. It may be that John Balliol could be added to the list. Although chronicle references are admittedly confused it appears that in 1295 Balliol was relieved of government and a council of twelve, was elected to manage the affairs of the country. The remarkable, if well known fact is, that when Wallace appeared on the scene he maintained that he was acting on behalf of King John. It is tempting to argue that a ‘ separation of powers had taken place or, to borrow the terminology of canon law, the dignitas was parted from the administration, while John was incapax. Balliol was the rex inutilis.
There is no doubt that the necessary expertise in canon law was present in Scotland in the last decade of the thirteenth century. It-was possessed by such figures as Fraser, Lamborton, Wishart and Baldred Bisset to name but a few. c.1184 Adam of Dryburgh replaced Abbot Gerard while the latter was incapax; Richard, Abbot of Melrose had been deposed in 1148 and Adam of Alnwick in 1208. In the minds of many Scots John remained king long after he was exiled and some supported the claims of his son in the next reign. In 1304 references to ‘the Lion’ represent an abstraction of the Scottish kingship. When Bruce made his bid for the kingship he was not only opposing the tyranny of Edward I; he was also usurping the seat of John Balliol. This being the case it is difficult to read the passage concerning his possible deposition as pure bluff. He and his advisers were forced to refine a theory justifying his action to the world, to the Pope and to the people of Scotland.
It has long been noted that many of John of Salisbury’s ideas derive from Irish tracts on the good ruler such as the seventh century Be duodecim abusivis saeculi and the De Rectoribus Christianiis of Sedulius Scottus. These point to a correlation between the good ruler and the prosperous kingdom; they also make plain that the cure for calamities in the land might lie in the deposition of the king. In Celtic Scotland the same theory was applied to the chief of the kindred or clan. Between 1286 and 1320 there are a number of references, in Bruce documents, to laws and customs. The Turnberry Band mentions ‘ancient customs hitherto approved and used in the kingdom of Scotland’; the Competitor’s claim through ‘nearness in degree’ recalls the Celtic system of succession as does Bruce’s nomination of his brother Edward as heir in 1315. Throughout his life Bruce showed great interest in Gaelic-speaking Scotland and in Ireland. While invoking, Celtic laws and customs Bruce was also resurrecting the Celtic ideal of kingship which would allow him simultaneously to attack the tyranny of the English kings, and rex inutilis, John Balliol. Celtic custom and canon law were blended to produce a distinctively Scottish concept of kingship which. is represented in the Declaration of Arbroath and which would outlive the medieval period.
shlar, a feature unique in Scotland so far. Its tentative dating was late medieval. He concluded by showing that consider,ble areas of Aberdeen are in danger from future re-development and emphasised that the losses would be tragic unless effective archaeological resuce could be organised. Such, excavations contribute•a great deal to historical knowledge and should command the active support of Scottish medieval historians. Discussion. Mr Cant thought there were two distinct phases to be distinguished in the evolution of medieval burghs; firstly a preburghal phase and secondly the growth of a community beside a castle. This seemed to argue some degree of planning. Professor Barrow cited the work of Professor Duncan showing that Perth was a two or three phase burgh. Mr Shead said the same was true of Glasgow. Mr Scott noted a quickening of activity in the 1190s when there were many acts granting-tenements in burghs. Mr Cant wondered about the use of. timber in early burghs. The evidence suggested that stone houses were hard to come by befOre 1400. Did Southerners import their own techniques? Mr Dunbar said that stone was a quality material and that timber was used for building’in burghs until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mr Lenman thought. that stone ” liouses.were considered exceptional but Professor Barrow recalled a document of 1280 which mentioned buildings of stone and timber. Dr Murray said that timber construction was banned in the seventeenth century. Mr Dunbar pointed out that stone wasinevitably expensive due to quarrying, dressing, etc. In reply. to a question by Professor Barroir, Dr Simpson said that pottery had been used in dating the jetty excavated,” Mr Fisher observed that excavations at Winchester suggested that there mad been. a stone-phase luring the first century of Norman influence. This was followed by a timber phase. Replying to Professor Barrow, Dr Simpson said there teas.no evidence of the type of roofing material used. Dr Murray pointed out. that slate.was scarce.. Mr Scott said:that the possibility of importing timber must not be forgotten and. Gilbert said that there had, in fact, been a shortage of timber in the fifteenth century.
2.00 p.m. Discussion on Historical Atlas Chairman: Mr Bruce Webster
Before. discussion commenced there was one tiem on current projects remaining to be mentioned.
With reference to Mr Simpson’s paper Professor Barrow stressed the vigour of local saints’ cults e.g. in placenames and the foci of particular cults. St Fillan was only one example. St Ninian was another. Dr Cowan remarked on the evidence of popular veneration to be found in supplications. Mr Scott recalled the importance of royal pilgrimages to such places as Tain and Whithorn. Mr Wormald said that many supposed medieval shrines of Scottish saints abroad, in fact, were to be traced to the Dark Age phenomenon of the ‘Scottus Pererinus’, and hence derived from Ireland. In reply to Dr Crawford’s question. as to why Gilbert of Moray should have been considered a saint, Mr Simpson pointed to his powerful. connections. Mr Lenman wondered if the cult of St Andrew may have been more important than nationalism as such. Mr Cant remarked on the fact that St Andrews became the chief bishopric. The Scots had first attempted to establish the cult of Columba at Dunkeld and had then readily adopted the Pictish cult of St Andrew. At least such a cult was quite clearly established by the twelfth century. Professor Barrow answered that one of the clearest pointers to the importance of Andrew was the seal.of the Guardians in 1286. Mr Cowan believed that the St Andrew cult could be traced to the eighth century. Professor Barrow pointed out that the unofficial cult of St William of Perth at Rochester may have owed something to the fact that there was a dedication to St Andrew at Rochester.
Dr Watt observed that according to recent scholarship different canonical texts were used to justify the depositions of Edward II and Richard II; Edward was ‘useless’, Richard too powerful. Had Mr Cowan established that canon lawyers were behind the 1295 episode? Mr. Cowan admitted that the events of July 1295 were fraught with difficult, due to the nature of the evidence but said that all recent students of the growth of constitutionalism were very excited abut the novelties involved in the deposition of Edward II since that was the first occasion in which the Pope was not involved. He thought that the case of John Balliol ought to be stressed that the obvious precedent for the Balliol case was Henry III, and Professor Barrow thought that some significance ought to attach to the fact that a new chancellor was appointed in 1295. Mr Cowan said he had considered Henry III but thought that something rather different was happening at that period. Mr Webster felt that Celtic tradition must be related to what the English barons of the time were doing and pointed to early fourteenth century examples of deposition etc. Professor Barrow thought that a possible link between the two was to be discerned in the fact that in 1306 Bruce was ‘elected’.
18th Conference Sunday 5 January 18th Conference day two
11.10 a.m. ‘Rescue Archaeology in Aberdeen’: Grant Simpson
Dr Grant G. Simpson gave an illustrated talk on ‘Rescue Archaeology in Aberdeen. He sketched the topographical background of early Aberdeen, of which the principal features were hills and water. Gallowgate Hill, Castle Hill and St. Catherine’s Hill presented-obstacles, but the Denburn and the Putachie Burn marked easier lines of access. The harbour had grown up at the highest navigable point of the Denburn Estuary. Attention to such features and to early routes suggested that the area of original settlement nay have been the Green. This area consisted of streets following contours of the ground (? a pre-burghal settlement), while the Castle Street/Broad Street area was laid out very regularly (? twelfth century town planning). He described the excavations of 1973 at a site in Broad Street, which was a medieval street line. The aim was to find, if possible, ordinary houses and associated remains and, although 18th century cellars had destroyed much, levels surviving under several closes had revealed house-foundations and a conjectural plan of seven house outlines was possible. In the back-lands a large midden had emerged, which was very productive of bones, pottery, leather and other small finds: fragment of wattle and daub walling, made with heather, had been recovered. he pottery finds, including one complete jug, had revealed both local wares and imports from England (E. Yorkshire, Nottingham) and abroad (SW France, Flanders, Rhineland). The pottery also helped to give an approximate dating of 1250-1350 for the site. et the lowest levels a series of pits had proved puzzling, but might prove to have been a tannery. More recent excavations had been conducted in the harbour area, at Shore. Brae. The main discovery here had been the line of an early harbour wall, partly in ashlar, a feature unique in Scotland so far. Its tentative dating was late medieval. He concluded by showing that considerable areas of Aberdeen are in danger from future re-development and emphasised that the losses would be tragic unless effective archaeological resuce could be organised. Such, excavations contribute a great deal to historical knowledge and should command the active support of Scottish medieval historians.
Mr Cant thought there were two distinct phases to be distinguished in the evolution of medieval burghs; firstly a preburghal phase and secondly the growth of a community beside a castle. This seemed to argue some degree of planning. Professor Barrow cited the work of Professor Duncan showing that Perth was a two or three phase burgh. Mr. Shead said the same was true of Glasgow. Mr Scott noted a quickening of activity in the 1190s when there were many acts granting tenements in burghs. Mr Cant wondered about the use of timber in early burghs. The evidence suggested that stone houses were hard to come by before 1400. Did Southerners import their own techniques? Mr Dunbar said that stone was a quality material and that timber was used for building in burghs until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mr Penman thought that stone houses were considered exceptional but Professor Barrow recalled a document of 1280 which mentioned buildings of stone and timber. Dr Murray said that timber construction was banned in the seventeenth century. Mr Dunbar pointed out that stony was inevitably expensive due to quarrying, dressing, etc.- In reply. to a question by Professor Barrow, Dr Simpson said that pottery had been used in dating the jetty excavated. Mr Fisher observed that excavations at Winchester suggested that there had been a stone phase during the first century of Norman influence. This was followed by a timber phase. Replying to Professor Barrow, Dr Simpson said there was no evidence of the type of roofing material used. Dr Murray pointed out that slate was scarce. Mr Scott said that the possibility of importing timber must not be forgotten and Mr Gilbert said that there had, in fact, been a shortage of timber in the fifteenth century.
The rest of the 18th Conference was occupied in society reports and project discussion.