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Chapter VI: The Priory 1164—1248

The duties of these churches were discharged by a vicar, who collected their revenues for the benefit of the house to which he belonged. The consequences of this system of endowment were little thought of, and yet they might have been foreseen. It was one of the chief causes which brought about the destruction of the Church, as we shall see. The tithes and property which the Church had obtained for the support of a resident clergy were in a great measure swallowed up by the monks. The parochial system of the country was destroyed, and though the monasteries became, and continued for some ages, the “home of religion and letters, the schools of civil life in a rough time, and the teachers of industry and the arts of peace among men whose sloth used only to be roused by the sound of arms,” [10] even the advantages conferred by them were of small account in comparison with the mischief of degrading the parish clergy. “The little village church, preserving the memory of some early teacher of the faith, with its modest parsonage, where were wont to be found the consolations of religion, refuge and help for the needy, and encouragement for all on the road to heaven, was left in the hands of a stipendiary vicar, an underling of the monastery, ground down to the lowest stipend that would support life, whose little soul was buried in his cloister, or showed its living activity only in disputing about his needful support with his master in the Abbey, while his ‘hungry sheep looked up and were not fed.’ The Church which ignorantly, and for its own purpose, sanctioned that misappropriation, paid in time the full penalty.”[11] The Clunaics were much given to holding churches as part of their endowments, and in a spirited controversy between Peter of Clugny, and Bernard of Clairvaux, on the merits of their different orders, the former defends very earnestly the use, or perhaps rather abuse, of this kind of ecclesiastical property. The incumbent of the Church of Mearns was a priest of the name of Helias [12] and with the consent of his brother, Peter of Polloc, the patron, he bestowed the benefice on the convent, serving the cure as its vicar. Ruglen was given by King William, [13] Innerkip by Baldwin, Count of Lanark, [14] with all its possessions, except the house of Randulph, the chaplain of Renfrew, to be his as long as he lives, “unless he should change his life by putting on the religious habit,” when, of course, his property would fall to the convent, as no monk could hold property of his own. Such a contingency was not unlikely. During those early years we have frequent notices of men who stripped themselves of their possessions and sought the quiet of the cloister, at that time the only home for either the studious or the devout. Henry De St. Martin, one of the followers of the Stewart, bestowed on the monks his land of Penauld, and, with the full consent of his lord, took his place among their number; [15] and the great Lord of the Isles, [16] the son of the mighty Somerled, bargains that he should be admitted a brother and his wife a sister of the monastic order, wishing to procure for themselves in life a quiet retreat, and in death a consecrated resting place. [17] It was in this way that a connection began between the Western Highlands and the Monastery, which in after years became very intimate.

[10] Innes' Scotland in the Middle Ages shews this well.
[11] Innes' Sketches of Early Scotch History, p. 18.
[12] Reg. de Pas., p. 100.
[13] Ibid, p. 106.
[14] Ibid, p. 112,
[15] Reg. de Pas., p. 48.
[16] Dominus Inchegal.
[17] Reg. de Pas. p. 125.