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Chapter XIV: Abbots Henry Crichton and George Schaw, 1459—1498

Still in the minster mass was sung,
With small bells ringing and censers swung,
Still bow'd the priest before the pyx,
The altar high and crucifix ;
And still the grand old psalm
Pealed through the pillared calm.
                             W. C. Smith.



A VERY curious transaction took place before the death of the good Thomas Tervas. [1] Pope Pius II. decreed, that at the decease of the Abbot the disposition of the office and of the whole revenues of the Monastery should fall to the Pope. Accordingly, when the demise of Tervas was reported to Rome, the Pope appointed Henry Crichton, a monk of Dunfermline, to be Commendator of the Abbey, and assigned a pension of 300 florins out of the revenues to Pietro Barlo, Cardinal of St Marks in Venice, to be paid him by Henry and his successors at the Feast of St. John the Baptist, under pain of excommunication, in case of his failing to make payment within thirty days after the appointed term, and total deprivation if he persisted in his opposition six months after his excommunication. Crichton probably paid well for the Commendatorship, after the manner of too many ecclesiastics at that time. He drew the revenues and held the abbacy, accounting for his intromissions to the Papal authorities. When he had got himself fairly installed in the Abbey, he declined to pay the stipulated pension to the Cardinal of St. Marks, making some legal quibble the ground of his neglect. The Pope then took severe measures with the defaulter. He instructed John, Cardinal of St. Laurence and Damascus, to deal with Henry, and to summon him to appear in Bruges or elsewhere. Henry, however, did not go to the Belgian town, and for more than three years continued to enjoy his revenues at Paisley in defiance of all citations. Pope Pius then ordered Cardinal John to proceed to the final stage of deposing Henry, but before this step could be taken Pope Pius died, [2] and was succeeded by Paul IL This Pope took up the case against Henry, and finding that Cardinal John was prevented by other duties, he commissioned Nicholas, Cardinal Priest of St. Cecilia, to bring the case to an end without delay. This was done, the Abbotship of Paisley was finally declared vacant ; and the Abbot descended from his high dignity to the station of a monk in the house he had governed. [3] The Pope then claimed all the revenues of Paisley for the Roman See, and for their proper administration appointed Patrick, Bishop of St. Andrews, to exercise in commendam sole jurisdiction over the Abbey in things temporal and spiritual so long as he lived, ordaining him at the same time to see that the usual number of monks was maintained, and the requisite provision for the various wants of the Abbey sufficiently cared for. We have no record in any charter of the government of the Abbey by Patrick Grahame, Archbishop of St. Andrews, though he had charge of it for three years. His sad fate is well known to the readers of Scottish history.

By some means Crichton made his peace with the Roman authorities, and on the 27th February, 1469, he was raised to the full dignity of Abbot of Paisley ; and all excommunications and other disqualifications were annulled by a special Bull of the Pope, who commanded all the monks and tenants of the Monastery to give him all due obedience as their superior. He proved an energetic ruler ; many copies, or, as they were called, transumpts, of the charters of the house were made under his direction. Old parchments containing grants of lands and other bequests, bulls of Popes, agreements with Bishops, and concessions by the Stewarts and by the Kings of Scotland were carefully transcribed, and certified as new copies by a notary public at the instance of Abbot Henry. It was in his time that the admirably kept rental-book was begun, which gives us so clear an idea of the management of the Abbey lands.



[1] See Appendix where the papers from the Vatican MS.S are given.
[2] 15th August, 1464.
[3] In his subsequent appointment he is spoken of as such.