School of History, Classics & Archaeology  
The University of Edinburgh School of History & Classics

Research

SURVEY OF DEDICATIONS TO SAINTS IN MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND

Project Aims

The chief aim of the project has been to construct a searchable database with a web-site interface recording and mapping dedications to saints in Scotland prior to 1560. It is hoped that the database will be useful as a research, reference and teaching tool for the study of saints’ cults and the wider examination of piety and devotion in medieval Scotland. The database has been compiled through a systematic survey of published sources relating to the medieval kingdom and a significant body of unpublished archival material. (For a list of sources surveyed and entered into the database so far click here). Please note that there are a number of sources, both published and archival, that were not included within the limits of the initial survey. The database should not, then, be regarded at this stage as a comprehensive register of medieval dedications to saints in Scotland, although it does contain sufficient information to allow the spread of particular dedications, and by implication individual cults, to be examined chronologically and spatially.

A subsidiary aim of the project has been to stimulate and facilitate further research activity relating to the cult of saints and medieval piety in Scotland. As part of this remit the project team organised two conference sessions at the July 2006 meeting of the International Medieval Congress at Leeds. Boydell and Brewer will publish the papers delivered at Leeds, supplemented by a number of invited contributions, as an edited volume entitled Saints Cults in the Celtic World during 2008. (click here for abstracts of the various articles).

The project team also hosted an end-of-project conference and database launch in Edinburgh over the weekend of 8-9 September 2007 (click here for details of the conference programme). Again, the papers delivered at this conference will form the basis of an edited collection to be published in 2008-9.

 

Methodology (a brief outline)

A fuller account of project methodology is available for download here

  • Coverage: The current project, working within the confines of a three-year programme, was based around a survey of the sources listed in David and Wendy Stevenson (eds.), Scottish Texts and Calendars: an Analytical Guide to Serial Publications, Edinburgh (Scottish History Society, Edinburgh, 1987). In addition, a survey has been made of those Gift and Deposit (GD) Collections in the National Archives known to be rich in medieval material.

  • Defining ‘Dedication’: It should be noted that the project team has adopted the widest possible definition of an act of ‘dedication’ to, or commemoration of, a saint. The survey has not been confined to recording formal altar or church dedications. Saints’ names could be invoked in a variety of contexts and all have been treated as examples of interest in, or knowledge of, a particular saint and their cult. Thus, for example, the project team has recorded: the use of saints’ feast days in the dating clauses of charters and other documents; topographical features such as hills, pools, streams and wells where these bear a saint’s name; the holding of fairs on a saint’s anniversary.

  • Database Construction: The database developed by the Survey of Dedications to Saints in Medieval Scotland is a relational database that allows the user to ask a variety of questions of the information it contains by combining search criteria in different ways. This arrangement means that the database can function as an aid to certain types of analysis, as well as providing a straightforward mechanism for the retrieval of data required by a user.

 

Project Team

 

Acknowledgements

The project team would like to thank the following individuals for their help and assistance: Dr Rachel Butter for her invaluable work on the initial application and database design; Ed Dee and Dave Stone for their role in the development of the database and mapping facilities; Dr Helen Brown and Victoria Mayer for their contributions to data collection; Jan Goulding and Tom Turpie for their help with administrative tasks; and finally Dr Simon Taylor for his expert advice on an number of issues affecting the database and its design.