The Pictish Nation:13 – Chapter 6 (Cont’d)

The ancient Church-sites that represent S.Ninian’s actual foundations among the Britons and Picts were, or are:

at Candida Casa, the mother-establishment, Whithorn, Galloway;

at S. Ninian’s, Colmonell, Ayrshire;

at ‘ Kil Sanct Ninian,’ Ardmillan, Ayrshire;

at ‘Cathures’ on the the site ofS. Kentigern’s Cathedral, Glasgow;

at ‘An Eaglais,’ the Church, now the Church of St. Ninian’s, Stirling;

at Coupar in Angus, where are S. Ninian’s lands;

at Arbirlot, Forfarshire, where S. Ninian’s Well remains.Here the memory of the locality of S. Ninian’s muinntir was preserved in the name ‘the College,’ which was on the north bank of the ‘Rottenrow’ burn, about a mile north-west of the present Church of Arbirlot. Over twenty years after the dedication, in A.D. i i 78, of the Roman Abbey of Arbroath, the ancient Celtic community of Arbirlot was still represented by a lay Ab and a clerical chaplain, evidently his vicar. Mauricius, Abbe of Abereloth,’ witnessed four charters of Gilchrist, Earl of Angus, between 1201 and I207.

Another site was at ‘S. Ninian’s Inch,’ Arbroath, Forfarshire. The Celtic ‘Inch’ or Innis is no longer current in Arbroath speech. The’ Inch’ was apparently the pasture-stretch on the shore at Seaton, where S. Ninian’s Well is, andwhere there was an ancient Churchyard. The Churchyard was on the high ground of Whiting-Ness headland above the Well. Here several ancient burials were opened out. The original Church was, of course, also at this spot. The situation of the ancient Churchyard, and the position of the Well, with all the surroundings, are strikingly duplicated at S. Ninian’s, Navidale, Sutherland. The whole district is rich in remains of the Pictish Church, including the sites of the Churches of S. Vigean, S. Muredoc, and the graven crosses dug up thereat. George de Brana erected a new Church here in 1483, and dedicated it to S. Ninian, the original founder.

Tracing S. Ninian’s actual foundations farther north, there are sites :

at Dunottar, Kincardineshire, where Earl Marischal, extending the Castle about 1380, invaded the inclosure of the ancient Church of S. Ninian, then in ruins;

at Andat, Methlick, Aberdeenshire. Andat means a Mother-Church;

at S. Ninian’s, Pit Medan, Aberdeenshire. A S. Medan was nearly contemporary with S.Ninian;

at S. Ninian’s, Morayshire, ‘near where Speyenters the sea,’ apparently the pre-Roman Catholic Church of Fochabers;

at S. Ninian’s, ‘ Diser,’ % in Moray, believed to beat Dyke;

at ‘An Teampul or ‘ Tempul Rinian,’ LochNess, Inverness-shire;

at Fearn, Edderton, Ross-shire, the original siteofthe Celtic Abbey of Fearn; and, for a short time, the site of the Roman Catholic Abbey ofFearn.the Roman Abbey was moved to Nova Farina,the present Fearn, south of Tain, in 1238. TheAbbey of Fearn remained a daughter-house of Candida Casa, from the Celtic Church period until about the time of the Reformation. Part of the memorial cross, dating eighth century, of Reodatius, Ab of the Celtic Abbey, has been recovered, and the uncial inscription has been read,’In the name of Jesus Christ. A cross of Christ, in memory of Reodatius. “May he rest(in Christ).” Reodaidhe, Ab of Fearna, according to the Annals of Ulster, died A.D. 762.

Tracing S. Ninian’s foundations still farthernorthward there are sites :

at S. Ninian’s, Navidale (‘Ni’andal’), Sutherland,where in one ofthe graves of the Churchyard were found a bronze knife, a flint implement,and the palmated antler of one of the extinct deer. His well, ‘Tober ‘inian,’ flows in the gorge near the Churchyard.

at S. Ninian’s, Head of Wick, where the inlet below is known as Papigoe, the Papa’s(Cleric’s) inlet,

at S. Ninian’s, Orkney, now North Ronaldshay;

at S. Ninian’s Isle, Dunrossness, Shetland, where the stone with Ogham characters was recovered, which indicates that the site was occupied by members of S.Ninian’s ecclesiastical ‘family.’

This chain of Church-sites, almost prehistoric, and the Church-sites, bearing later native names, that historically were linked on to it, and the ancient stones with Pictish symbols whose meaning has been forgotten, which these sites have yielded, confirm decidedly and accurately Bede’s information that S. Ninian christianized the Southern (our Eastern) Picts; and also Ailred’s statement,drawn doubtless from the Old Life, that he divided the whole land, namely Pictland, into distinct districts.

When, further, we consider this chain of ancient Church-sites bearing S. Ninian’s name in the light of the historical canon  that early Celtic,and especially Pictish, Churches took their names from their founders, the confirmation of Bede and Ailred is conclusive. Historians have seldom troubled to diflferentiate between Churches which were actual foundations by a missionary-saint, and late Churches which were merely dedications to his memory, or dedications under his supposed protection. Even the Roman Church did not dedicate its Churches for some centuries; and, at first, to martyrs only. The Celts did not dedicatetheir Churches until the eighth century whenthey began to be romanized. The Pictish Church, as a Church, did not dedicate at all. The attempts to dedicate Churches in the eighth century, underthe Sovereigns Nechtan and Angus I., and later,when the Pictish Church was closing its existence, were the efforts of individuals who hadcome under Roman Catholic influences.

Such few dedications as were made in Pictland during the last period of the Pictish Churchwere made by Roman Catholics to Roman, not to native saints. Wherever the Roman missionaries were able to assert any power they systematically sought to displace the original and nativesaint who had founded the Church of a town, and tried to substitute a Roman saint. At St. Andrews they displaced S. Cainnech by S. Andrew ; at Rosemarkie they tried to displace S. Moluag by S. Peter; at Deer they tried to displace S. Drostan by S. Peter; at Dornoch they tried to displace S.Finbar by S. Mary; at Arbroath, somewhat later, William the Lion, who betrayed so many of his country’s interests, set up a shrine and stately abbey dedicated to Thomas a Becket, in an attempt to supersede the neighbouring Churches of S. Ninian and S. Vigean, men to whom the district owed a real debt of veneration.

Frequently when the native clerics did not themselves resist, thepeople refused to allow the ancient Celtic foundations to be superseded. At Arbroath Thomas aBecket’s Abbey became a melancholy desecrated ruin; but in the original parishof S.Vigean’s intowhich the Abbey was intruded, one of its two ancient Churches, namely, S. Vigean’s, still survives with someof its ancient Pictish stone crosses; and it has happened similarly elsewhere in Pictland.There was more resentment at the Reformationagainst the Roman Church because it was foreign than has been allowed. The people, frequently, steadily insisted on burying their dead around the spots where the Pictish missionaries had first preached the Gospel to their forefathers, even when the Roman and post-Reformation clergy had withdrawn their patronage from these Pictishpioneers. The efforts of the Roman mission to blot out such names as S. Ninian’s from local memory often resulted in imprinting them more deeply; and so indicating clearly to later generations the older and native missionaries of theChristian Church.

After S. Ninian had established his Mission-Churches, in Pictland and had put them in charge of ‘brethren,’ as Ailred tells us, ‘he bade the brethren farewell and returned to his own Church’ at Candida Casa. At this point the historians usually take farewell of S. Ninian and drop all noticeof his Pictish mission, as if it had been ‘left in the air.’ S. Ninian, however, had organized his great mission to christianize the Picts that there might be abiding protection to the interests of thegrowing Christianity and civilization of the Britons. . He was an ecclesiastical statesman too thorough in his methods to leave his chief mission ‘in the air.’ The existence of the names of his successors in connection with Pictish Churches that owed their origin to Candida Casa ought to have warned historians that S. Ninian’s Mission-Churches survived and continued in communion with Candida Casa; and that they were supplied with a ministry therefrom, or from daughter-houses, long after S. Ninian had passed away.Fortunately there are fragments in the Lives of the Irish Pictish missionaries which settle this beyond dispute.

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