An archaeology of Scotland's early Romananesque churches: the towers of Alba

Semple, Mhairi Claire (2009) An archaeology of Scotland's early Romananesque churches: the towers of Alba. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is a study of the earliest masonry church towers in Alba, the historic core of the kingdom of Scots. The towers at Abernethy, Brechin, Dunblane, Muthill and Markinch have been briefly considered in architectural histories with dating construction as their principal concern. I maintain that there is no equivalent archaeological presence in the study of medieval churches as there is in England and Ireland. Where church archaeologies are produced in Scotland they generally do not progress past data description. As a consequence, Scottish contributions to church archaeology publications are largely written by architectural-historians, particularly Richard Fawcett, who is the sole modern authority on Scotland’s medieval churches.
To distinguish my archaeology from previous research I do three things. Firstly, I review other ecclesiastical research from the past 30 years to provide a deeper historical context for these buildings. Architectural histories begin their narrative of church building from the late eleventh century based largely on extant remains. Yet from excavations and sculptural assemblages the tradition of building in stone can be dated with confidence from the late eighth century. Secondly, this study provides close fabric analyses of each tower and its immediate context, describing more architectural features than have previously been noted. These include masonry re-use at Dunblane and Abernethy indicating that stone churches pre-dated these towers. I link these architectural observations to changes in liturgical practice using Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration, as modified for the study of archaeological remains by John Barratt. These case-studies are used to describe the material settings of religious and social practice in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. In line with recent research on church towers in Lincolnshire and Ireland I challenge the belief that these structures were ancillary to their associated churches and were instead the focus of liturgical practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Broun, Prof. Davit and Driscoll, Prof. Stephen
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Ms Mhairi Claire Semple
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1331
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2010
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 12:58
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.1331

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