Religion is one of the largest influences on social history; from birth to death, lives are marked with ceremonies and beliefs. It has caused conflict and grief but has also provided comfort and structure to many.
Religion is one of the largest influences on social history; from birth to death, lives are marked with ceremonies and beliefs. It has caused conflict and grief but has also provided comfort and structure to many.
In the early medieval period in the south west, religion was characterised by the existence of monasteries. The arrival of Christianity, sometime in the 4th century - advocated by historical figures such as Ss. Ninian and Columba, saw the establishment of many of these centres. Monasteries were also seats of learning and the main foci of communities; the local populace paid rent for land and occasionally gave produce from their agricultural work. Places such as Whithorn were centres of pilgrimage for hundreds of years.
Place names give a good indication of the spread of Christianity; although some have corrupted over time, many still show their ecclesiastical origins, such as Kilwinning and Ecclefechan. The presence of cill or egles  in a name reflects the presence of a church; St Winin and St Ernoc are commemorated in Kilwinning and Kilmarnock respectively. Others are more obscure, such as Lamlash, which derives from St Molaise - it would at some point have been Cill mo Luaise.
As the medieval period progressed, the Church maintained and in some cases increased her power.  In the Borders, the 11th -13th centuries saw several great monasteries being built, notably the Cluniac foundation at  Crossraguel, as well as Glenluce, Dryburgh, Melrose (where the heart of Robert the Bruce was interred) and Sweetheart Abbeys. The latter was founded by Devorgilla, wife of John Balliol and is a good reminder that the Church and the Crown often went hand in hand. The two greatest sources of power in history often saw the benefits of collaboration, although sometimes the balance was upset; some of the most fraught periods in Scottish (and worldwide) history have been caused, directly or indirectly, by a clash of ideals.
The  Reformation of 1560 had caused a lot of unsettlement; John Knox and his followers were at the head of a break in religious tradition, which essentially meant a move away from Catholicism.  Whereas Roman Catholic Bibles were printed in Latin, the Reformers wanted them in English and Scots instead and Knox's Book of Common Order was adopted by the Church in 1562. It had started a few years previously, when figures on the Continent such as Martin Luther were advocating changes; these influences filtered through to Britain. The invention of the printing press meant that propaganda from both sides was much more widely available. 
One of the legacies of the Reformation was the 'killing times' of the Covenanters in the 17thcentury. King James VI, and more so his son, Charles I, intended to align the Scottish church to that of England and work under a similar system - this included the appointment of Crown-approved bishops, kneeling at Communion and other changes, such as alterations of prayer books. This seemed too much like a return to Catholic practices, as well as a direct challenge to the Presbyterian doctrine which was governed from within, so a rebellion followed.
Support for the dissenters to this new regime was summarised in the National Covenant, copies signed throughout the area, and thus the rebellion mass became known as the Covenanters. 
For years, civil war prevailed, until Oliver Cromwell unseated Charles I and ruled Scotland with his own party until the Restoration in 1660. Charles II followed but maintained the previous changes, with the additional ruling that anyone adhering to the Covenant would be outlawed. This resulted in secret services - conventicles - conducted by preachers, one of the most famous being Alexander Peden (1626-86, born in Sorn), who wore a mask to conceal his appearance.
Presbyterianism was not re-established until 1690, when the Protestant William and Mary took the throne. 
However, although the Church was often the root cause of much strife through the centuries, it has also been a source of solace and in many communities have remained the centre of the population. 
Attendances have generally fallen towards the end of the 20th century, but most churches have retained a loyal congregation.
You must enable javascript to view this website