Silver communion cups of the Parish of Glencairn

Communion cups are used to serve wine during Holy Communion, a church service in which members of the congregation share bread and wine.  These were the communion cups used in Glencairn Church.  The parish of Glencairn is north west of Dumfries and centres on the village of Moniaive.   They were made in 1617 by an Edinburgh silversmith, Gilbert Kirkwood. His marks can be seen stamped close to the rim. They are, from left to right, the maker’s mark, the initials GK in a shield; the town mark of Edinburgh, a castle; the deacon’s mark of John Lindsay and the initials IL.  The zig-zag pattern above the marks indicates where silver was removed for assay, to test its purity.   From its establishment at the Protestant Reformation in the mid 16th century the communion ware used in the county parishes of the Church of Scotland was made of pewter.  The store of silver communion ware of the Roman Catholic Church was either taken into exile by the clergy or passed to the civil authorities.  In many towns it was melted down and used to fund good works.   In 1617 the Scottish Parliament passed an Act requiring parishes to use silver cups to serve communion wine.  These cost a considerable amount of money, which parishes had to raise from their congregations.  The scale and style of these cups were a measure of the size and prosperity of the parish.  Wealthy landowners would sometimes give communion ware to parishes within their estates.   Congregations which chose to abide by the law and purchase silver communion ware would not only be acquiring fine silver work but also proving their loyalty to the authority of the state and the established church.   All these early communion cups are the work of Edinburgh silversmiths. This must have been a very profitable time for these craftsmen, not least Gilbert Kirkwood who seems to have made more than any other silversmith.  He made cups for many parishes, including Balmaghie, and Tynron in Dumfries and Galloway.
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Gilbert Kirkwood
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Dimensions :
height 195mm, diameter (rim) 110mm, diameter (base) 97mm
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