Previous page

Next page

Chapter IV: The Founding of the Monastery

One thing, however, necessary, according to the ideas of the period, to complete the colonisation of Strathgryff, was the erection of a Monastery. It was the age of convent building. On the ruins of the ancient monastic system of Scotland, represented by the Culdees, religious houses after the Roman pattern were rising everywhere. Monks of many orders were coming across the border in the wake of the Norman settlers, drawn either from the convents in England, or from the parent houses in France. Cistercians from Rievaulx in Yorkshire were at Melrose, and Dundrennan in Galloway; Augustine friars from St. Quentin at Beauvais in France, were at Jedburgh; Tironensians, from Picardy, at Kelso; and Benedictines, from Canterbury, at Dunfermline. [11] These houses were mostly erected by royal munificence, but many nobles followed the example of the sovereign, and built and endowed monasteries on their possessions. Among these founders was Walter, the son of Alan.

In looking out for a monastic order to introduce into his newly-acquired northern territory, the Lord High Stewart was naturally influenced by his early associations. In his native county of Shropshire there was a convent of Clunaic Benedictines at Wenlock, with the order of which he was familiar. It had been founded by Montgomery, the Earl of Shrewsbury, a younger son of whom, Robert de Montgumbri, was among the Stewart's followers, and had obtained from him the manor of Eaglesham, in Renfrewshire. This monastery had also been greatly enriched by gifts from the Lady of Clugny.
[12] From Wenlock the Scottish colonist therefore sought to obtain his monastic contingent. Being in attendance on King Malcolm, his sovereign, at Fotheringay Castle, in Northamptonshire, in or about 1163 [13] he entered into an agreement with Humbaldus, who presided as Prior over the house of Wenlock. The agreement is carefully drawn out, and is witnessed by the chancellor and chaplain of the Scottish King, and the abbot of the great house of Rievaulx. On the one hand, Walter, the son of Alan, “for the soul of King David, and King Henry, and Earl Henry, and the souls of his parents and benefactors, and for the health of the body and soul of King Malcolm, to the honour of God,” agrees to build an house of religion on his land of Passelay, “according to the order of the brotherhood of Wenlock, which is the order of the Clunaic monks.” He is to have thirteen of the brethren to originate the Monastery, and is to have the right of choosing the Prior who is to rule over them, which right is to be vested in himself and his successors, and, except in the general recognition of the order, the proposed house at Paisley is to have no connection with Wenlock. On the other hand, Humbaldus is to procure for the new foundation the recognition of the Clunaic order, and especially of the Prior of La Charité[14] and the Abbot of Clugny, and in return for these services he is to receive from the Stewart certain properties in his Burgh of Renfrew, and rights of fishing in his waters,—among others, that of catching herring. [15] It took some time to procure the sanction of the project by Suaricius, the Prior of La Charité, and Stephen, the Abbot of Clugny, [16] and probably Humbaldus had to visit these foreign monasteries for this purpose. These dignitaries, however, readily gave their consent; and Stephen, in recognition of the generosity of Walter, received him into the brotherhood, and made him partaker of the prayers of the whole Order of Clugny, decreeing that, at his death (if he should not have become one of their monks before that time), the same prayers, and masses, and psalms, and other offices, should be said for him as for one of the order. [17]

[11] Jedburgh was founded 1155; Dryburgh 1150; Kelso 1128; Dundrennan 1142; Melrose 1136.
[12] Eyton's History of Shropshire. “Stewartiana,” by J. H. Riddel.
[13] “The exact date of the foundation charter cannot perhaps be ascertained with certainty. From the phrase ‘pro salute corporis et anime regis Malcolmi’ occurring in the charter, it is evident that it was granted in King Malcolm's reign who succeeded in 1153. Of the witnesses, Ingleram, the chancellor, became Bishop of Glasgow in 1164, and was afterwards so styled in deeds; and Richard, the king's chaplain, was elected Bishop of St. Andrews in 1163. The period in which the charter must necessarily have been granted being thus narrowed, a reason¬able conjecture is afforded of its exact date by the place at which it was granted. This is without doubt Fotheringay in Northamptonshire, a castle and manor inherited by King Malcolm, along with the Earldom of Huntingdon, and we know of no other occasion within the time limited which could bring together at this castle the chancellor and Stewart of Scotland, and the king's chaplain, persons usually in attendance on the king, with other Scotchmen, except Malcolm's visit to England in 1163, when he did homage to Henry II. on the first day of July, at Wodstoke, a place not distant from his own castle of Fotheringay.”—Introduction to Paisley Register.
[14] “The Monastery of La Charité Sur Loire,” according to Martine, “was originally built half a league from the place where it now stands, near the ancient town of Seir, which no longer exists. Having been destroyed by the Vandals, it was re-established by King Pipin, who placed Benedictine monks there. It was soon after destroyed by the barbarians. Geoffrey of Nevers, Bishop of Auxerre, having rebuilt the church in honour of the Holy Virgin, gave it to Hughes, Abbot of Clugny, who made it a famous monastery, and gave the government of it to Givard, his prior, who is considered a saint at Clugny.”—1 Voy. Lit., P. II, p. 214.
The Monastery of La Charité had many cells in England,—Wenlock was granted to it in 1087 by Earl Roger of Shrewsbury.

[15] Reg. de Pas., pp. 2, 3.
[16] Pope Innocent III. gave his sanction in 1209.
[17] Reg. de Pas., p. 3.