Pictish Nation-Chapter I


The Church of the Picts originated from the great mission conducted along the east coast of Alba(Pictland) by S. Ninian,a Briton, during some period between the years 400 and 432 A,D. While a native ministry was being reared,the ministry of the Church thus founded was supplied from the muinntirs , or religious communities of the Celtic Britons who lived south of the Wall of Antonine; and,also from the religious communities of the Irish Pcts (Cruithnii) ,particularly from the overflowing community of the Picts of Ulster at Bangor where S. Comgall the Great ruled as Abbot. It continued to be  the sole Church of the Picts of Alba until A.D. 842 when Kenneth Mac Alpin, king of the Gaidheals,* or Scots t of Dalriada, seated himself on the throne of the Picts in Fortrenn( Kingdom of Earn), and assumed the sovereignty. By this act, the Kingship of the Gaidhealic colony of Dalriada became merged in the High-kingship J of Pictland. The Gaidheals, or Scots, had a Church of their own, founded at Hy (lona) A.D. 563 by S. Columba, a Gaidheal. Clerics of this Church naturally followed their king and his court into his new realm; and we possess a record of their presence there, in Fortrenn,*about a century after Kenneth Mac Alpin’s time, trying to adjust their claims with the interests of the clerics of the native Pictish Church. Although, in name, Kenneth united the two dominions of Gaidheal and Pict at once, he did not unite the two peoples, or the two Churches.

Union of the peoples and Churches was a gradual process which continued through centuries. It was effected, district by district, sometimes by absorption on the part of the Picts, sometimes by suppression and penetration on the part of the Scotic dynasty. For example, the people in the districts once ruled by the Pictish mormaors of Moray withheld recognition from the Gaidheals until compelled by the terrors of the sword; and the old native Church was still represented at St. Andrews in the tenth century. \ Again, the ancient Pictish Churches at Deer| and Turriff were not taken over by Gaidheals until the early part of the twelfth century, after the Roman episcopate had been organized with the help of the Ceanmor group of Scottish kings. Although the Gaidhealic intrusionists had the countenance of theCrown, they required some sort of title with which to soothe the local sentiment before entering into possession of these old native establishments. They were equal to the situation, however, here as elsewhere, and proceeded to edit in their own interest the history of the origin of Deer, subordinating S. Drostan, the founder, to their own Saint Columba, thus creating what is known as’ The Legend of Deer’*

Although they could use Columba’s name to influence the Celtic sentiment of local officials, they show nevertheless that, by that time, this Saint had been deposed from his once high place in the esteem of Gaidhealic ecclesiastics; because in the memorandum of a genuine dedication of property made after the Gaidhealic intrusion was complete, ‘ Petir Abstoil? that is Peter the Apostle, is added to ‘Columcille and Drostan’ and takes precedence of both, f We thus learn that the Gaidheals who took possession of Deer in the twelfth century had already been romanized. Farther north, in the diocese of Caithness, the clerics who represented the very ancient Pictish foundation of S. Finbar, at Dornoch | continued to survive into the early thirteenth century in spite of and apart from Gilbert Murray, the fourth prelate but the first Gaidhealic bishop who had been able to secure a footing in that part of the diocese. The community of S. Finbar worked undisturbed; but Saint Gilbert* Cf. The Book of Deer. required to import a colony of Murrays to insure his security.

These are merely three widely separated examples of survivals of the ancient Pictish Church, indicating the long period that elapsed before the churchmen of the Gaidheals gained effective control of the congregations that gathered affectionately to the sacred centres of the ancient native Church. Incidentally, we learn that the Celts of Scotland have never been for long without a dissenting minority somewhere. Most interesting, however, it is to note that altogether, apart from isolated survivals later than the reigns of Kenneth Mac Alpin and King Giric or Grig (c. 889), the Church anciently founded by S.Ninian, the Briton, flourished as the sole Church of the Pictish people for four hundred and seventy years (c. 420-^. 890), that is, roughly, one hundred and ninety years longer than the period in Dalriada of the Church of the Gaidheals, or Scots, founded by S. Columba (563-^. 842), and two hundred and five years longer than the period of the mixed Church of Alba (c. 842-1107) which was partially romanized, and recognized by the Scotic dynasty of Pictish sovereigns; and, roughly, twenty years longer than the period in Scotland of the organized and conformed Roman Catholic Church of the Scots (i 109-1560), and, roughly, nearly one hundred and thirteen years longer, to date, than the period of the Reformed Church in Scotland.

* Gaidheal (modern Gael) is the name owned by the Q-using Celts. At the beginning of the sixth century they occupy the West, the Upper Midlands, and the North-west of Ireland. They were descendants of Cairbre Righfada, and claim to have migrated northward by the west coast from Munster. Their north-eastward pressure drove the Picts to the eastern sea-fringe in Ulster. The Gaidheals of the North and Upper Midlands were the race of Niall; those on the West the race of Brian; the Gaidheals who emigrated to Scotland and founded the colony of Dalriada (Argyll) were the race of Ere ; and related to the Nialls.

t This name occurs in Claudian (fourth century) referring to certain Irish Allies of the Picts of Alba. Continental Latin-speaking people applied the name to all natives of Ireland. S. Columbanus and S. Gall, although both were Picts, are ‘ Scots ‘ to the people on the Continent. The Vikings (c. 800) restrict the name ‘ Scot ‘ to the Gaidheals of Dalriada and the name Pict to the Picts of Alba. In the Leabhar na h- Uidhre the Gaidheals of Scotland are Albanaich men of Alba. After the tenth century, Latin writers begin to restrict the name ‘ Scot ‘ to the Gaidheals of Scotland; and ultimately these Gaidheals monopolized this name entirely.

\ At first the Gaidhealic kings followed Kenneth’s example and were styled ‘ rex Pictorum ‘ ; but in A. D. 900 there is a sudden change, and they begin to be styled ‘ rex Alban,’ which was a return to the pretentious title which the Annalists dropped after the disastrous defeat of the Gaidhcals by Brude Mac Maelchon in 560. Righ Alban was then changed to Righ Dalriada. When the style of ‘ rex Alban ‘ was revived after 900 we find that it began to be translated ‘ King of Scotland ‘ and also ‘ King of Scots.’

* Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, Skene, p. 9.

t C. 906 attempts were made apparently by Cellach, first Roman bishop at St. Andrews under the Scotic kings, to bring the clerics of the Pictish Church into communion with the new Gaidhealic clerics.

J In Buchan ; founded by S. Drostan, a Briton, and dealt with later.

Also in Buchan; founded by S. Comgan, a fugitive Pictish prince
from Erin.

* Cf. The Book of Deer.

t See Entry iii. fol. 4, first side, Book of Deer.

\ Now the county town of Sutherland.


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