The Scottish Cistercian houses, 1136-1487
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There is considerable extant source material concerning the Scottish Cistercian Houses between the years 1136 and 1487. Three of the Houses have extant chartularies, and there are smaller collections of documents belonging to other abbeys. In addition, the Order is mentioned in the records of other religious institutions in Scotland, and in the documents of the Scottish and English Crowns and the Papacy. It is possible to come to an understanding of many aspects of the history of the White Monks in Scotland. These include; the life within the Houses, the monks' relations with their lay patrons, and the agricultural and economic activities of the abbeys. The history of the Order in Scotland is that of a largely stable and successful group of Houses. It is also a history of change and adaptation to time and circumstances. The majority of the abbeys were founded by and owed much of their wealth to the generosity of Scottish royalty. Subsequent endowment was largely the work of the Anglo-Norman families of Scotland. Relationships grew between the monks and their patrons. The monks often performed services such as burials, the provision of chaplains, and the granting of hospitality. Abbots served in Royal administration, and as diplomats. The Houses formed a close community, being descended from Rievaulx, with the single exception of Saddell, and there were frequent exchanges and contacts. The period under consideration saw an increasing emphasis on formal education, and a high proportion of the abbots and monastic officers were university educated. There is little evidence of pure scholarship. There was a decline in the numbers of laybrothers, and they were replaced by hired lay servants. The Cistercians were major landowners, possessing large tracts of varied agricultural land, lying for the most part within easy reach of the Houses. They extended and consolidated these holdings through purchases, rentals, and exchanges. In addition to land they were well supplied with natural resources. Exploitation of land was accomplished through a system of granges. The abbeys were major wool producers, and exported to the Continent, often in their own ships. During this period, the direct exploitation of land was replaced by a rentier economy. As well as considerable temporal possessions, the Scottish monks enjoyed 'Spiritualities'. These included; churches and chapels, grants of cash for the poor and sick, pittances, and grants to altars. The history of the Cistercian Order in Scotland is one of steady change and adaptation to prevailing conditions within Scotland and the Order. Developments within these abbeys paralleled those throughout the Order. The Houses functioned as an integral part of the religious, political, economic, and social life of medieval Scotland.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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