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this notoriously false assumption, and (p. 36. seqq.) would fain
make us believe, that the monks of Hy were presbyterians.
Speaking of Colman of Lindisfarne or York, who called himself
a bishop [ap. Beda, Eccl. Hist. L, 3. c. 25.) Jamieson pretends,
that he received not only his appointment but even his episcopal
power from the College of elders. This writer seems not to
understand the very terms of Church discipline and Canon law. '

(9) See Chaj). xii. $ 15. and ih. Not. 234-. Jamieson here
and there has the old mistake of the North of Ireland beuig also
subject to Hy.

(10) See ib. and Not. 235.

(11) In the five Lives of St. Columba, published by Colgan
{Tr. Th.), there is no mention whatsoever of Culdees, not even
in that by O'Donnel, ^vho raked together every thing that he
could collect relative to the saint's proceedings, and who wrote at
a time when there were Culdees, as they are vulgarly called, in
Ireland. Bede, notwithstanding all that he has about Columba
and his disciples, and concerning the Irish missions in the North


of England and elsewhere, the leaders of which were Columbians,
as likewise about the practices of the Scots both of Ireland and
Britain, and of the Northern Picts, is quite silent as to any
persons called Culdees or by any similar name ; and it must appear
evident to an attentive dispassionate reader of Bede's works, that
there was not such an order of men existing in his times. Colgan
has employed 23 large folio pages (from 487 to 510) of his Tr.
Th, in giving from writers of various ages, an account of St.
Columba's disciples, and of the Columbian monasteries, churches,
and their superiors, the chronicles of Hy and its abbots, distin-
guished men, &c. down to the 13th century, and similar ones of
the Columbian houses of Derry, Durrogh, Kells, Raphoe,
Swords, Raghlin island, Fathan, and Drumclieff. Yet in this
minute account, including so many centuries, and in which hun-
dreds of names are mentioned, there is not a word about Culdees,
nor is any one among those hundreds of persons designated by any
name or title like it. Hence it is as clear as day light, that they
did not by any means belong to the Columbian institution ; and
accordingly, besides many others, Nicholson was mistaken (Pref.
to Irish Histor. Library/ p. 30. Ocfav. ecL 13. Jol. ed.) in saying,
that the Culdees -were of the Irish rule carried into Scotland hy
St. Colamb. It is probable, that they were in Ireland earlier
than in Scotland, to which country, however, they were not
carried by St. Columb. But what are we to think of Ledwich,
who, having pretended to draw up {Antiq. Essay 3. 1st. ed.) a
history of the Irish Culdees, not content with following this opi-
nion, has the audacity frequently to refer to Bede as expressly
speaking of Culdees? Thus he says, (p. 62.) that " Bede,
though closely attached to the See of Rome, yet with candour
and truth confesses the merits of the Culdees"; refers (p. 64.
seqq.) to Bede for Aidan and his Irish missionaries in Northum-
berland, as likewise for his successors Finan and Colman, besides
others, having been Culdees; tells us, that Bede's third book is
chiefly in praise of the Culdees ,• speaks, as if from Bede, of
Adamnan of Hy having been a Culdee, adding that he aposta-
tized, and then groans over the downfal of the illustrious semi-
naries of the Culdees of Hy and Lindisfarnc. Is it possible to
bear with such a train of imposture ? Bede never mentions
Culdees^ nor did he know oi' any such persons in the world. A*


to Ledwich's balderdash about the apostacy of Adamiian and the
downfal of Hy, &c. we have seen elsewhere. The paschal and ton-
sural disputes were always running in this stupid man's head, and
they formed the bulk of his theological erudition. But neither
did Adamnan apostatize, nor did the school of Hy or even of Lin-
disfarne cease to flourish. To his nonsense about the pretended
Culdees of Hy he joins {p. 670 that the Culdees were mairied,
for which he refers to Toland. But Toland was speaking of
certain Scotch Culdees, who, he says, were commonly laymen,
whereas Ledwich wished to insinuate, that the monks of Hy were
married. Another of his attempts to impose on the public is his
adducing ( p. 55.) the authority of Lloyd and Usher as if they
had written highly in favour of the Culdees. Now Lloyd, who
has much about them, says not a word in praise of them, observ-
ing that he could find no mention of Culdees or Kildees until
about A. D. 900. He laughs at the Scotch stories concerning
them, and expressly distinguishes them from the Columbian and
other old Irish monks, of whom indeed he speaks rather favour-
ably. Usher mentions Culdees or Colidei several times, but
neither praises nor dispraises them ; and it never entered into his
head to confound them with the Columbians. But in spite of
these writers and of Bede, &c. Ledwich transfers to his fictitious
Culdees whatever they had said in praise of Columbkiil and his
monks. He then has recourse to Sir Robert Sibbald and Sir
James Dalrymple, and so well he might ; for, as Chalmers ob-
serves {Caledonia, VoL \. p. 4-39.), " system has concuiTed with
ignorance in supposing, that the Culdees actually possessed rights
and exercised powers, which were inconsistent with the established
laws of the universal church in that age ;" and, as he adds, " Sir
James Dalrymple's collections are filled with the prejudices of his
age and country." Ledwich complains that Mosheira and others
have not recorded the merits of the Culdees as champions of
Evangelical truth ; but what were the merits of the real Culdees ?
Was it that in late times some of the Scotch ones were married,
one of Ledwich's great proofs and tokens of sanctity ? After all,
even with regard to those, whom he falsely calls Culdees, Ledwich
could not with all his lies and quibbles discover any particulat sys-
tem of doctrine held by them, different from that of the whole


Churcli of those times ; and all his bustle and smoke terminate la
the mighty points of the Paschal computation and the tonsure.

§. II. The real name of the members of the com-
munity or communities, of which we are now treat-
ing, was not Culdees, Culdei, nor Colidei, but, as
far as I can discover, Ceile-De, or probably rather
Ceile-Dae, (12) But then a question occurs con-
cerning the primitive meaning of this compound ti-
tle. Several writers think, that it signifies sei^vants
of God ; (13) and in fact the terms agree very well
with this explanation, and we find that some holy
men, who however did not belong to this commu-
nity, were, on account of their sanctity, called Ceile
or Kek'De (servant of God), such as, for instance,
the celebrated Aengus Keledeus. (14) Yet, al-
though individuals might very properly have been
styled servants of God, or Ceile-De in that accepta-
tion, it is difficult to think, that an entire order of
men, consisting of various communities, could have
assumed such a proud denomination, or have been
greeted with it. Accordingly it appears to me, that
the original name was Ceile-Dae, that is, a man liv-
ing in community ; for Ceile in Irish signifies toge-
ther, and Dae a 7nan, (15) As the persons belong-
ing to this order were not, strictly speaking, monks,
(16) nor at the same time members of the parochial
clergy, this new appellation was made out for the
purpose of distinguishing them, even by an Irish or
Gaelic name, from other ecclesiastical bodies. Look-
ing to the origin of this institution, they were in
reality no others than the description of clergymen
called Secular Canons who were originally attached
to the cathedrals of dioceses. Although bound by
rules peculiar to themselves, they belonged to the
secular clergy, and partly on this account, and
partly to distinguish them from the Canons Regular
who sprang up at a much later period, they have
been and are still designated by the title of Secular


Canons. A great body of rules was drawn up for
these Canons by the council of Aix-la-Chapelle in
the year 8l6, not very long after their institution be-
gan to be introduced into various churches. Thence-
forth they formed the Chapters of dioceses, and gra-
dually obtained many privileges and exemptions.
They lived together in cloisters or chapter-houses,
and had dormitories, refectories, &c. in the same
manner as the monastic institutions. I need not
give an account of their particular superiors and of-
ficers, as their whole system is so generally known,
and still exists in the greatest part of Christendom,
except that in very many places they have ceased to
live in communities ; and I shall only add that, be-
sides the Cathedral Chapters, there has been formed
a great number of collegiate ones consisting of Ca-
nons attached to the service of minor churches, and
which are kept up to this very day. (1?)

(12) The name Colidei is used by Giraldus Cambrensis, as
latinized from the Irish, whereas he thouglit that their original
appellation sigm?iedi ^worshippers of God. I find it used also by
Colgan, Usher, and others. Culdei is evidently a corruption of
Colidei, which had Nicholson adverted to, he would not given us
{Pref. to Ir. Histor, Libr. loc. cit,) an aukvvard derivation of
Culdee as if it signified a black hood or coid, or a black monh
For neither the real so called Culdees, nor the Columbians, whom
Nicholson confounded with them, were black monks. Prior to
the times of Giraldus the name was written in Latin Keledei.

(13) Among others O'Brien, Irish Dictionary at Ceile-De,
Toland interprets it separated or espoused to God. O'Brien's ex-
planation is more natural.

(14) See Not. 96. to Chap. xx. Colgan (Tr. Th. p. 478.)
mentions also a St. Comgan, whose memory was revered on the
2d. of August, and who was surnamed Kele-De, that is, says
Colgan, Deicola, by which he explains (A A. SS. p. 580.)
likewise the surname Kele-De given to Aengus. But he did not
consider either of these saints as a member of the community


usually called CuldeeSy to whom in the very little he says of them
he gives the name of Colidei.

(15) See Lhuyd's Irish-English Dictionary at Ceile and Dae
It agrees with the Conventuales ap. Ducange. A new etymology
was attempted by Lloyd, (On Church gvernment, ch. 7.) who
thought, that the name ought to be written Ki/ldee, and then
concludes, that it means a house of cells, in the same manner as
in Welsh mijnachdee is a monastery. But could he have found
that in the Irish language Dee is used for a house? Besides,
the name originally began with Ceile, a name quite different from
cill or cille a cell. Next, the whole name was applied not to
houses but to men, whereas Ceile-De or Ceile-Dae is constantly
understood of the persons called in Latin Keledei and corruptly
Colidei or Ciddei.

(16) It is true, that Giraldus, speaking (Itiner. Camhriaey
L.^.c.6.) of those of the Island of Berdesey off the Welsh coast,
calls them monachi religiosissimi ; but he says this in a loose
manner, and afterwards explains himself by observing, that they
were called Caelibes or Colidei. This particular community of
them appears to have consisted not only of clergymen but likewise
of pious unmarried laymen, as also probably that of the Island of
the living near Roscrea. (See Chap. xxx. §§. 15.)

(17) I should not have given this little sketch of the particular
system of the Secular Canons, were it not for the purpose of
enabling the reader to compare it with that of the so called
Culdees. He will find much more on the subject in every even
elementary treatise of Canon law, ex, c. Fleuiy's Institution, 8^c,
pari 1. ch. 17.

§. III. The first mention I have met with in Irish
history of the particular institution or body of eccle-
siastics, called Culdees, (which name, as being now
generally adopted, I shall use) is in the account of a
pillaging of Armagh in the year 921 by Godfrid,
king of the Danes of Dublin, who is said to have
spared the churches and the Colidei. (l8) The
Secular Canons had been generally established since
the ninth century ; and that the Culdees of Armagh


were a branch of their institution is sufficiently clear
from the description given of the Culdees, who were
still there until the 17th century. They officiated
as secular clergymen in the cathedral, sang in the
choir, lived in community, had a superior called
prior of the Culdees, who acted as praecentor, or
chief chanter, and who was elected by themselves,
but confirmed by the Archbishop. (19) Surely this
was in substance the exact system of the Secular
Canons, except that our Culdees seem not to have
acquired as many privileges or as much power as the
Canons of the continent gradually did. There was
a prior and college, or collegiate house, of Culdees
also at Clones. (20) We find likewise in the island
of Devenish (county of Fermanagh) a house of the
same institution, which seems to have been founded
in 1130, and was considered a community of secu-
lar priests. (^1) There is a sentence of John Mey,
archbishop of Armagh, passed in 144-5, declaring
that the office of a Culdee, Prior or not, should be
looked upon as not implying care of souls, and that
accordingly it does not prevent his holding along
with it a benefice, to which such care is annexed,
provided he continue to reside in the church of Ar-
magh ; and there is a brief of Pope Nicholas V.
J, Z). 1447, much to the same purpose in favour of
the Prior of the college of secular priests called Colidei
or Culdees of Armagh. (2^i) Yet, although the Irish
Culdees were generally considered as clergymen, yet
the name seems to have been sometimes given to com-
munities comprizing also some pious unmarried lay-
men, inasmuch as they lived together; and such
appear to have been those mentioned by Giraldus
Cambrensis. (23) For as to married Culdees there
is not the least vestige of any such ever having been
in Ireland.

(18) See Chap, xxii. ^.9. 1 wish Colgan had given us the
Irish word, which he latinized by Colidei.


(19) Usher, Prim. p. 637. where he observes, that there were
Colidei or Culdees in the principal churches of Ulster, and that
they continued at Armagh and elsewhere until within his own me-
mory. Ware, Antiq, cap. 17. and Harris, ( Antiq. cap, 35.) who
remarks, that those of Armagh were a corporate body and pos-
sessed of a considerable landed property.

(20) Ih. lb, IL

(21) Ware, who mentions (ib.) the Culdees of Devenisli,
speaks of them also cap, 26 at Fermanagh, and calls them secular
priests. I have already observed, that collegiate houses of Se-
cular canons were annexed to minor churches, and, I may here
add, often in small towns or places, as may be seen particularly in

(22) See Usher, loc. cit. In the decree of John Mey it is or-
dered, that the Prior of the Culdees is to have the precedency at
table, i. e. in the refectory, and in executing and regulating the di-
vine offices, as being praecentory and that due reverence be paid to
liim by the other Culdees.

(23) See above Not. 16,

§. IV. There were Culdees also at York, who in
the account given of their hospital of St. Leonard of
that city (24) are called Colidei and clergymen of
St. Peter's the cathedral. Whether that name was
derived to them from Ireland or Scotland I am not
able to tell, and it is immaterial to inquire. We
find them there in the reign of Athelstan, king of
England, who made them some grants in 936 ; and
they continued at York for a long time after down
to, at least, the times of Pope Adrian IV., who
confirmed their possessions. But it is in the history
of Scotland that the name Culdees most frequently
occurs; for they had more establishments in that
country than in Ireland, whereas the Irish, for the
greatest part, adhered to their old system of having
their cathedrals served by communities of monks in
preference to the new ones of Secular Canons cr
Culdees. It is not my business to enter into a de-



tailed account of the Culdees of Scotland ; yet I may
be allowed to touch on some points relative to them,
merely to show how much their whole history has
been misunderstood. And first this much is certain,
that there is no mention of them in true Scottish
history until after the year 800, (25) nor, I believe,
for many years later, and that the name Culdees or
Keledei first appeared at St. Andrews. (26) It is
said, that Constantino the third, king of Scotland,
who died in 943, spent the last five years of his life
among the Culdees of that city. (27) Such Scotch
Culdees, as were seated in episcopal sees, acquired the
privilege of electing the bishop out of their own bo-
dy, and seem to have held it for a considerable time.
(28) This was precisely conformable to what the
Secular Canons gradually attained in other countries,
but which I do not find that the Irish Culdees ever
enjoyed. It seems, that the see and Culdees of St.-
Andrews claimed, about the beginning of the 12th
century, a preeminence over those of all Scotland ;
for it is recorded, that while Turgot, who had been
prior of Durham, was bishop of St. Andrews, the
*whole right of the Culdees throughout the entire
kingdom of Scotland passed to the bishoprick of St.
Andrews. (29) The obvious meaning of these words
is, that, as the see of St. Andrews was then con-
sidered as the metropolitical one of Scotland, its
bishop and chapter, or Culdees, insisted upon a pre-
cedence over those of all the kingdom, and that no
bishop should be installed in that country without
their consent. In an old document, written by a
Culdee of St. Andrews, we read, that m said citt/,
where is the apostolic see (of St. Andrew), the arch^
bishop of all Scotland ought to he ; and that mthout
the counsel of the elders of that place no bishop ought
to be ordained in Scotland. (30)

(24.) Ap, Dugdale. MonasU Angl. Vol. 2. p. 367. The hospi-


tal had been first called that of St. Peter ; and the Colidei placed
one of their own body over it.

(25) See Chalmers, Caledonia^ Vol. \. p. ^M. This writer,
who has treated of the Culdees much more fairly and rationally
than many others, yet speaks of them as if they had been a sort
of monks, who performed the functions of secular priests, and else-
where represents them as derived from the old Irish monks, who
formed the Cathedral chapters. It would have been more correct
to say, that they were secular clergymen, who in some places
were substituted to the monks. There is a story in a MS, account
of the bishops of Dunkeld by Alexander Myln, and quoted by
Sir James Dalrympie, Toland, and Jamieson (Historical^ S^c. p.
136.) of Culdees having been placed in Dunkeld about A. D. 729
by a king of the Picts at the instance of St. Adamnan. How could
this have been, whereas Adamnan died in 704? ? Add, that Chal-
mers, who has deepl}^ examined every document relative to the
Scotch Culdees, maintains that they were not heard of until af-
ter 800. Others say, that there were no Culdees at Dunkeld
until 815. (Jamieson, ib.) All mere guess-work.

(26) Chalmers, ib. This brings us down to, at least, the mid-
dle of the ninth century, whereas there were no Culdees at St.
Andrews until it became an episcopal see, and it is acknowledged
that it did not become such until after Kenneth, king of the Bri-
tish Scots, conquered the Picts in 84-3, and added their country
to his kingdom. Chalmers says, [ib. p. 429.) that there is reason
to believe, that the see of St. Andrew was founded during the
rule of Grig, who ceased to reign in 893.

(27) Buchanan, rex 76. See also Usher, Pr. p. 659.

(28) Jamieson, quotes {p. 100, 101.) a passage from Martine,
Reliquiae, in which we read ; " Culdei episcopum e suo corpore
eligendi potestatem in Scotia semper habebant, donee translatum
fuit ab iis jus illud ad clerum, quod primum in electione Sanct
Andreani episcopi Willielmi Wisharti abrogatum fuit anno 1271,
auteo circa." And Chalmers observes, {Caledonia, Vol. 1. p. 4'36.)
that before the introduction of the Canons Regular at St. Andrews
in 1140 the Culdees alone acted as Dean and Chapter in the
election of the bishops, and that thenceforth both parties were joined
in that right until 1272, when it was usurped by the Canons Re"

X 2


gular. He says also, that the culdees of Brechin continued for
many ages to act as the Dean and Chapter of that diocese.

(29) The passage, as quoted by Usher {p. 1032.) from a
chronicle of Durham, is as follows : " Anno ab Incornatione Do-
mini Mcviii. tempore regis Malcolmi et sanctae Margaretae
electus fuit Turgotus prior Dunelmensis in episcopum Sancti An-
dreae, consecratusque est Eboraci 3 Kalend. Augusti, et stetit
(sedit) per annos septem. In diebus illis totum jus Keledeorum
per totum regnum Scotiae transivit in episcopatum Sancti An-
dreaer The latter part of this passage is quoted also by Selden.
(See above Not. 5.)

(30) This document, otherwise fabulous enough, has been
published by Usher, (p. 648. seqq.) and in it we find [p. 651.)
the following passage : ^x hac itaque civitate archiepiscopatus
esse debet totius Scotiae^ ubi apostolica sedes est ; nee absque con-
silio sejiiorum istius loci ullus episcopus in Scotia debet ordi-

§. V. There were several Culdee houses in Scot-
land besides those annexed to episcopal sees. (31)
The Culdees, whatsoever place they belonged to,
are in Scotch charters and documents often called
Canons ; (32) are spoken of as acting in that capa-
city ; had priors ; were required to live in commu-
nity, and to observe caiionkal discipline according
to the institution of their rule. (33) In fact, those
of Scotland were to all intents and purposes Secular
Canons, and continued to enjoy the privileges an-
nexed to that description of clergymen, until they
began to be disturbed in the early part of the 12th
century by the Canons Regular of St. Augustin, in
the same manner as the Secular Canons were at that
period, and prior to it, in other countries, where
they were ousted out of many cathedrals, &c. and
Canons Regular substituted in their stead. Indeed
a great part of them, both in Scotland and else-
where, deserved to be set aside ; for they violated
some of the chief rules of their institution by ceas-
ing to live in community, and taking to themselves


wives or concubmes. (34) For these reasons many
of the Scotch Culdees laid themselves open to pro-
ceedings against them during the reign of Alexan-
der I., who brought Canons Regular from England
and established them in several places in lieu of the
Culdees. Thus he dismissed in the year 11 15 the
Culdees of Scone, and entrusted the church of that
place to Canons Regular. (35) David I. his suc-
cessor, although favourable to Canons Regular, yet
treated the Culdees with mildness, and did not eject
them, wherever they submitted to the reformation,
which he introduced. (36) When he procured the
establishment of a regular episcopal see at Dinikeld,
he allowed the Culdees to continue to act as Dean
and Chapter. (37) Several Culdee houses, in which
the primitive rules were observed, remained in Scot-
land until much later times. Of their system I lind
i\ remarkable instance in the case of the Culdees of
Monymusk, who had been placed under the bishop
of St. Andrews by the same king David I. Dis-
putes having arisen in course of time between them
and the bishop, the matter was referred to Pope In-
nocent III., whose referees decided in the year
1212, that **the number of the Culdees of Mony-
" musk should be fixed at twelve with a prior. They
'* were to have one refectory, one dormitory, with
"a cemetery in the church of Monymusk. Their
" elections were to be made by choosing three of
" their own number, out of whom the bishop was
** to elect a superior. The Culdees were not to be-
" come Canons Regular without the consent of the
** bishop. They were restricted as to the holding
" or acquiring of lands. And the bishop promised
" for himself, and for his successors, that the Cul-
" dees should in future enjoy the privileges, which
" had been thus settled by the Pope's referees." (38)

(31) Chalmers mentions several of them ib, p. 438.

(32; Thus in a charter fap, Jamieson, App. No. 12.) Canonici,


Online LibraryUnknownAn ecclesiastical history of Ireland, from the first introduction of Christianity among the Irish, to the beginning of the thirteenth century , Compiled from the works of the most esteemed authors ... who have written and published on matters connected with the Irish church; and from Irish annals an → online text (page 27 of 45)