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Durham e-Theses
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Irish influence on ecclesiastical settlements in Scotland a case study of the island of Islay

Swift, Catherine (1987) Irish influence on ecclesiastical settlements in Scotland a case study of the island of Islay. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The aim of this thesis is to examine the assumption that the morphology of early mediaeval ecclesiastical sites in the Hebrides is closely related to that of Irish sites. This assumption is based on the historical information for Irish influence in the area of Scottish Dalriada and is supported by limited documentary sources. It is suggested that such evidence, concentrated as it is in the seventh and eighth centuries, may be misleading. The thesis is divided into two parts. In the first Section, an overall view of present research in both Ireland and Scotland is presented. Particular emphasis is placed on the evidence for ecclesiastical enclosures and sculpture as these are characteristic of the Christian remains in the Hebrides. On the basis of excavated material, a four-fold classification of enclosure type is put forward: settlement enclosures, ritual enclosures, cemetery enclosures and chapel enclosures. The evidence for the position of sculptured stone on ecclesiastical sites is outlined and an effort is made to link its presence to the status and function of a settlement. In the second part of the thesis, a detailed case study of the island of Islay is presented. It is suggested that the large number of church sites on the island are due to a number of different phases of church construction and settlement. Approximately half of these sites have archaeological material linking them to the early mediaeval period and this material can be divided into two types, comprising sculptured stones and drystone church sites. The drystone churches can be divided into four groups on the basis of their typology and it is suggested that groups A and B are relatively earlier than groups C and CI and that both groups probably derive from Man. They are associated with enclosures which are normally small in size and appear to be of the chapel or cemetery types. The sculpture of Islay is associated almost exclusively with later nwdiaeval1 im-mortared church and concentrations are noted at the later parish centres of Kildalton and Kilchoman. Through their parallels in form and ornament, these monuments can be linked with lona and, to a lesser extent, with the north of Ireland. It is suggested that the sculpture sites of Islay represent late eighth or ninth century ecclesiastical settlement's which daughter houses of the Columban monastery on lona were. The drystone churches are believed to date to a period of Manx control of the island in the later Viking period. Groups A and B churches may represent private estate churches, possibly ninth or tenth century in date, while Group C churches are interpreted as proto-parochial centres linked to the establishment of the Bishopric of the Isles in the early twelfth century. It is concluded that the evidence does not support the contention that Irish influence was paramount in the Hebrides throughout the early mediaeval period. On the contrary, the archaeological material suggests that the islands, including lona formed a unique regional group drawing from both mainland Scotland and Ireland but largely self-sufficient.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1987
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:45

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