Chapter 4 The Dominicans in Scotland, 1230–1560

In: A Companion to the English Dominican Province  
Richard Oram
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Three main areas are covered within this paper: the introduction and early influence of the Dominican Order in Scotland over the thirteenth century; the late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century association with the Stewart kings; and the prominence of the order in the late medieval wave of reform and spiritual revival down to the 1550s.

The swift spread of the Dominicans in Scotland following their introduction in the early 1230s stemmed from royal and episcopal patronage. Political influence came through the apparently close relationship between King Alexander II (1214-49) and Bishop Clement of Dunblane (1233-58) – the first Dominican to become a bishop anywhere in the British Isles – who acted both as a spiritual reformer and financial manager in his impoverished diocese and as a crown agent in the king’s expansion of his authority west into Argyll. No subsequent Dominican enjoyed such prominence in Scottish political and religious life but it had been embedded into the social and spiritual fabric of the kingdom within two decades of its arrival.

The second part of the paper looks at the re-emergence of the Dominicans as close associates of the crown in the later fourteenth century. It considers the significance of the establishment of a royal residence within the Perth Blackfriars monastery under the early Stewart kings and the spiritual role which the Perth’s Dominicans played in the royal household. How this relationship was affected by the assassination within the royal apartments at Perth of King James I (1406-37) will be considered at the end of this section.

In the final portion of the paper, the part played by the Dominicans in servicing and supporting the upsurge in popular devotions in the decades preceding Scotland’s Reformation will be examined in outline. Foundations of new Dominican houses, reform of the older ones, reinvigoration of the Order’s role in the academic curriculum within Scotland’s three medieval universities, and their growing role as guardians of orthodoxy against heresy, will provide the main strands within the discussion.

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