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4b. Illumination of the Evangelist St. Matthew, with
40. Continuation of his Gospel, and Charter of David I.
The Plates are numbered in the order of their occurrence in the Manuscript, but a
few of them are arranged to suit the letterpress.
INTRODUCTORY-MONASTERIES OF ST. COLUMBA—ONE OF THEM AT DEER— CHURCHES FOUNDED BY NATIVE SAINTS-ST. FERGUS, ST. DROSTAN–THE BOOK OF DEER : ITS HISTORICAL VALUE—THE LATER CISTERCIAN ABBEY OF DEER.
AMID the darkness which enshrouds those missionaries who imparted to the heathen tribes of Alba the blessings of the Christian faith, the form of St. Columba stands out with exceptional clearness of outline; and the popular instinct has not erred which ascribes to him the largest share in the great work, and traces to his mission the most enduring results. The almost contemporary pages of his biographer, St. Adamnan, enable us to realise to ourselves the system adopted by the great missionary in his enterprise. When he first took possession for Christ of the little island of Hy, which, under the name of Iona, was to become illustrious for all time from its association with him, he founded upon it a monastery, in conformity with the system which then prevailed, not only in the country of the Scots from which he came, but throughout Europe. Every fresh settlement which the saint effected as he pushed his Christian conquests, whether in the islands of the Hebrides or in the mainland country of the northern Picts, consisted of a monas
tery for a body of clerics, from which they might disperse themQ.
selves in circuits among the surrounding tribes, returning to their home for shelter and mutual support.”
One of these monastic settlements was that of Deer, in Buchan, a district of Aberdeenshire, which, projecting into the German Ocean, forms the most easterly point of Scotland; and the legend in the Book of the Gospels of this house preserves in traditional detail the circumstances which marked the infancy of the establishment.
It represents the arrival at Aberdour, a sheltered bay on the rocky shores of Buchan, of St. Columba, accompanied by his pupil Drostan; but we are left to conjecture whether the strangers arrived by sea in one of the frail coracles so much in use with the saint and his followers, or were on a landward circuit through the northern districts.
The mormaer or ruler of the district of Buchan, who seems to have been on the spot, made an offering to the clerics of the “city” of Aberdour with freedom from mormaer and toisech.
There are reasons for believing that a considerable population was gathered in the country around the rocky coast of Aberdour” and the red Dun" which overlooked its southern side; and as we are frequently able to trace the progress of the Roman armies through places of dense population, where their “ways” were led amid the raths and abodes of the Britons, so we may infer from the numerous churches dedicated to Celtic saints, through
* The same course was followed in the Northumbrian monasteries. Of St. Cuthbert we are told that, leaving Mailros, he would spend sometimes several weeks together among the people settled in the glens and hillsides of the Cheviots and the Lammermoor, returning afterwards to his monastery for repose and the refreshment of society, as the bird to the ark; and of St. Aidan's wanderings we also hear in the pages of Venerable Bede (B. iii. c. 17), who elsewhere describes the practice of the time, “Erat quippe moris eo tempore populis
Anglorum, ut veniente in villam clerico
out Scotland,” in sites of early
settlement, that the missionaries
1 The colour of the rocks at Dundarg is of a dark red, and the neck of the Dun was cut off from the land by transverse earthworks, of which portions still remain.
* Of these there are two classes—first, the churches actually founded by the saints themselves in the course of their missions; and next, the foundations of later date dedicated to the memory of the saints by their spiritual successors. The names of St. Ninian, St. Kentigern, and St. Columba, were held in reverence throughout the kingdom, and churches were dedicated to them in all parts of Scotland. In other cases, the dedications are more restricted in their range, and suggest their origin in the circuit of the patron saint himself.
Of this character are the churches dedicated to St. Fergus, which seem all traceable as original foundations by himself in the course of his labours, as they are related in the Breviary of Aberdeen (Part. Estiv. fol. clxii) According to this authority, St. Fergus, after having performed the office of a bishop for many years in Ireland, came on a mission to the western parts of Scotland, in company with a body of presbyters or clerics. Arriving in the neighbourhood of Strogeath,
he and his friends settled there for a time,