Scottish Collegiate Churches

All the Collegiate Churches of Scotland tabulated and compared.

Below are listed all the collegiate churches which existed in Scotland. Some had failed before the Reformation (1559) but all ceased to exist by acts of the Scottish Parliament (1560 and 1567) which abolished and outlawed the Catholic Mass. The Protestant Reformers did not accept the existence of Purgatory and the need for prayers to be said for souls ‘caught’ there ceased to be necessary. Thus secular collegiate churches such as Rosslyn Chapel were no longer required by the Reformed Church and it demanded that those families, such as the St. Clairs (or Sinclairs) of Rosslyn, cease to use their buildings for ‘Popish’ and idolatrous use.

Rosslyn Chapel is a good example of what happed to such collegiate churches. William St Clair’s church kept its alters after the Reformation because he adhered to the old faith – of which he made no secret. The Reformed Church took a dim view of this and after several confrontations St Clair was forced, eventually, to destroy the alters in Rosslyn Chapel. As an aside, this also further confirms that Rosslyn Chapel was a Roman Catholic edifice and was disliked by the new reformed Church. The building taken over by the Reformed church were adapted to the new style of worship. However, because families, such as the Sinclairs and Setons, owned their own churches the Reformed church could not take possession of them but they could, and did, make sure that they were not used as Roman Catholic churches and this ensured that Rosslyn Chapel, Seton Church etc. ceased to be a collegiate churches.

The table below provides details of each collegiate church in Scotland as far as records available provide information. Although the headings are, in the main, self explanatory some interpretive detail is provided below the table.

Name County Min. Income(1561) Date Founded Prebends Chaplains Clerks/Choristers
Aberdeen St Nicholas Aberdeenshire 1540 22 – 16+
Abernethy Perthshire £240 1328-31 6 – 11 – 7 3
Biggar Lanarkshire 1545/6 9 4
Bothans East Lothian £162 1421 5 – 7
Bothwell Lanakshire £423 1397/8 7 – 10 2
Carwarth Lanarkshire 1424 7+
Coldingham Berwickshire 1473
Corstorphine Midlothian £434 1429 5 – 9 4
Crail Fife 1517 12 some
Crichton Midlothian £233 1429 9 – 14 4
Cullen Banffshire 1543 7 – 8 2
Dalkeith Midlothian 1406 6 – 13 3
Dirleton East Lothian 1444 some
Dumbarton Dunbartonshire £340 c.1454 7
Dunbar East Lothian £690 1342 10 some some
Dunglass East Lothian £160 1443/4 3 – 13 4
Dunrossness Shetland several
Edinburgh St Giles Midlothian 1466 – 9 16 – 18 numerous 4
Edinburgh St Mary Midlothian c.1510 11
Edinburgh Trinity Coll Midlothian £532 before 1460 9 – 11 2
Fowlis (Easter) Angus 1453 8
Glasgow Our Lady Coll Lanark 1525 9 – 12 3
Guthrie Angus c.1479 5
Haddington East Lothian c.1540 numerous
Hamilton Lanarkshire 1450/1 7 – 9
Innerpeffray Perthshire 1506 – 42 some
Kilmaurs Ayrshire 1413 9+ 2
Kilmun Argyll 1441 6 – 8
Lincluden Dumfries-shire £540 1389 9 – 13
Markle East Lothian c.1450 some
Maybole Ayrshire 1381/2 3 – 5 1
Methven Perthshire £790 1433 6 – 10 5 4
Peebles Peebles 1541 13 2
Restalrig Midlothian £530+ 1487 7 – 12+ 2
Roslin Midlothian c.1450 6
St Andrews St Mary Fife £500 c.1250 7 – 14
Semple Lochwinnoch Refrewshire 1504 7
Seton East Lothian 1492 7 – 9 3
Stirling Chapel Royal Stirlingshire £1270 1501 19 – 28 6
Stirling Holy Rood Stirlingshire before 1546 some numerous
Strathmiglo Fife c.1527 7 – 12 (?) 3
Tain Ross-shire £100 1487 6 – 7 5

This table details all 42 Scottish collegiate churches in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, the tumultuous nature of Scottish history means that the information about these churches is incomplete. However, from the information that is available we can make comparisons and draw some conclusions thereby.

The ‘county’ column reveals that collegiate churches were almost entirely confined to the area below the ‘highland line’ that is in the lowlands, borders and north eastern areas of Scotland. This is because this was were wealthy, towns, families and royalty were located. Something not revealed by the table is the ‘owners’ of the churches.

The third column shows the known income for collegiate churches as at 1561. However, the fragmentary nature of the records mean that we only have details of 15 Scottish Collegiate Churches. Of those, there income details for only half of the collegiate churches owned by families like Rosslyn Chapel. However, even that fragmentary information when considered with the other details of these churches allows us to come to some conclusions.

Clearly the most important and riches collegiate churches were those who had powerful patrons and the Chapel Royal at Stirling is the supreme example having, as it did, the patronage of kings. Other large and rich collegiate churches were those where there were a number of patrons especially those in Burghs which had large numbers of merchants, burgesses, and trades all supporting one institution. St Giles in Edinburgh is an example of this kind of collegiate church. Further down the scale we find family churches such as Rosslyn Chapel and whilst we do not know how much money was involved we can get a sense of where it fitted into the Scottish pattern. We can do so because there is a correlation (not always a precise one) between income and the number of prebendaries at any given collegiate church. The large and richly endowed always had the largest number of prebendaries, clerks, choristers etc. The number of predendaries, where known, are listed in the appropriate column above. The Royal Chapels again have the larges number with Stirling having the largest every recorded at 28. The figures in this column vary as the actual numbers varied from time to time. Thus Abernethy collegiate church began life with 6 prebendaries, at one time increased to eleven but eventually this was reduced to seven. The column therefore shows 6 – 11 – 7.

The smallest collegiate churches, according to the number of prebendaries had in the range of three to seven, All were family owned collegiate churches like Rosslyn Chapel. Indeed Rosslyn did not have as many prebendaries as others collegiate churches, e.g. Crichton and Seton, but did have much the same as others such as Corstorphine and Dalkeith. In other words the Sinclair (St Clair) family were much on a par with other locally powerful families who built and endowed their own collegiate churches for their own use.

Those collegiate churches which are highlighted (and are links) in the first column have further information about them elsewhere in this site.

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