The secular Church and clergy in the Diocese of Argyll from circa 1189 to 1560

MacDonald, Iain Gerard (2009) The secular Church and clergy in the Diocese of Argyll from circa 1189 to 1560. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


Herein presented is a diocesan study of the medieval secular church and its clergy in Argyll, situated along the west coast of Scotland, from its foundation in 1189 until the Reformation in 1560, but with a special focus on the period between the later fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The church in this region has hitherto not been discussed at length, having been overshadowed by the nearby Abbey of Iona. Those few historians who have commented upon the see of Argyll, centred upon the isle of Lismore, have dismissed it as a poor and unsuccessful institution, and have either ignored or criticised the parochial clergy who served in it. This thesis challenges this viewpoint by investigating who founded the bishopric and why, and examining the governance of the diocese by the later medieval bishops of Argyll. This is followed by a prosopographical study of the late medieval clergy, which investigates their origin and status, issues of the practice of clerical celibacy, the extent of clerical concubinage, and the evidence for their education and learning.
The thesis demonstrates that, despite numerous problems - poverty, periodical violence and warfare, exile, and the formidable powers of the Campbell and MacDonald kindreds - the bishops’ efforts were far more impressive than historians have hitherto appreciated. It shows that there was a substantial body of clergy who competed for benefices in Argyll and that, while many were men of high social status within local Argyllshire society, increasing numbers of incumbents came from elsewhere in Scotland. It also illustrates that the degree of illegitimacy and concubinage among the parochial clergy was significant, but not incomparable with contemporary trends in Europe, and proposes that the staffing of the church in Argyll was not solely reliant upon priestly offspring. Finally, the thesis shows that there was a large body of highly literate and well-educated ecclesiastics serving in the diocese, several of whom attended the leading universities in Europe. However, the vast majority studied at the Scottish universities of Glasgow and, to a lesser extent, St Andrews.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Argyll, diocese, West-Highland, church, late medieval, bishops of Argyll, cathedral chapter, parish clergy, parochial fasti, priesthood, prosopography, social and geographical origins, surnames, patronymics, social status, ethnicity, kindred, celibacy, concubinage, illegitimacy, hereditary succession, learned orders, ecclesiastical kindreds, education, literacy, University of Glasgow, degree, notaries public, Classical tradition, Highland, Lowland, papal Curia, Register of Supplications, monumental sculpture, Lismore Cathedral, St Moluag, Bachull Mor, Dunoon, Kilmun collegiate church, Iona Abbey, Snizort Cathedral, Sodor, parish, rectory, vicarage, Lorn, Morvern, Kintyre, Cowal, Glassary, Ireland, Gaidhealtachd, Gaelic, George Lauder, James I, Auchinleck Chronicle, 1452, language, MacDougalls, MacDonalds, Campbells, lordship of the Isles, earldom of Argyll, lordship of Lorn, Celtic church.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: MacGregor, Dr. Martin
Date of Award: 2009
Embargo Date: 21 January 2015
Depositing User: Mr Iain Gerard MacDonald
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-554
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19

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