Fordoun Parish Church

Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, looking east

Summary description

A possibly two-compartment church that was rebuilt in 1787 and again in 1828-29. Within the churchyard is the shell of a small rectangular later medieval chapel associated with St Palladius.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Palladius

A Class II Pictish stone found at the church site identifies it as the location of a Christian religious centre in the eighth century.  Despite this indication of early origins, no other historical record of the church survives until the thirteenth century, when the dedication of the church on 17 October 1244 by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews was noted.(1)  The church was a free parsonage when next recorded, in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1274-5, where the rector of Fordoun was assessed for taxation at 11 merks.(2)

According to Walter Bower writing in the second quarter of the fifteenth century, on 5 July 1318 during the dedication of the cathedral church at St Andrews, King Robert I had made good the vow he was said to have made at Bannockburn in 1314.  There, Bower said, he had promised to pay 100 merks annually from his resources to increase divine worship in the church should St Andrew aid him to secure victory in battle.  Sometime after 1318 the king converted the 100 merks into a grant of the church of Fordoun with all of its resources.(3)  In December 1329, six months after the king’s death, a commission was established to examine the grant and, if appropriate, ratify it.(4)  The parsonage was thereupon annexed to the cathedral-priory and a perpetual vicarage erected to serve the cure.

Perpetual chaplains of the church are recorded through the remainder of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.(5)  Records of gifts and endowments made to the church through the fifteenth century reveal a significant local cult of St Palladius.  A supplication to the pope dated 10 April 1432 stated that the chapel of St Palladius the Confessor (described as first missionary to the Scots at the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff), which was located in cemetery at Fordoun, attracted a significant flow of pilgrims.  The chapel, however, was claimed to lack suitable buildings and ornaments, which would only be forthcoming through the pious alms of the visitors.  To encourage their gifts, the pope was requested to grant an indult to all who visited the said chapel on agreed feast days (not specified in the supplication) or contributed to its construction and conservation of three years and as many quarantines to last in perpetuity.(6)  On 10 June 1480 Mr Stephen Mortimer, vicar of made a grant of an extensive raft of annual rents to his own church in honour of the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, St Katharine the Virgin, St Palladius (described as the granter's patron), and all the saints of the heavenly court.(7)

Although the priory faced a challenge to its right of provision of the vicar in 1489 when Pope Innocent VIII provided Hugh Martins to Fordoun,(8) the church remained annexed to St Andrews cathedral-priory at the Reformation.  At that time, the parsonage was valued at £266 13s 4d and two chalders of meal per annum, while the perpetual vicarage, held by James Learmonth, was valued at 100 merks.(9)  Reference was made to an ‘assignation’ from Learmonth’s income for a curate, but no fee was recorded.

Notes

1. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 525 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

2. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 36.

3. Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, ed D E R Watt and others, vi (Aberdeen, 1991), 413-415.

4. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, i, 1198-1304, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 403.

5. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1375-1394, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 15, 199; Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 98, 316-317; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, ed E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 90; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, viii, 1427-1447, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1909), 190.

6. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 216-7.

7. W E K Rankin, The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity St Andrews (Edinburgh, 1955), 81-84.

8. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiv, 1484-1492, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1960), 286.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 16, 17, 403.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to priory of St Andrews by Robert I, commission to examine the grant was appointed in 1329. The parsonage was annexed to the priory, a perpetual vicarage being erected.(1)

1318 According to Bower, Robert I granted the church to the cathedral of St Andrews in place of 100 marks pa he had promised in recognition for the help of the patron saint at Bannockburn.(2)

1329 Mandate to investigate letters by which Robert I gave the rights of patronage and advowson to St Andrews priory.(3)

1378 Robert Wysse (chaplain of William de Keith), described as perpetual vicar, 1394 Gilbert Knight (Militis) collated to perpetual vicarage.(4)

1402 William de Lychton (illegitimate and kinsman of bishop William of Aberdeen (de Dene d.1350?) collated, value £20 as non-resident. Succeeded on his death by Walter de Lychton (brother German of John) in 1415.(5)

1430 Hugh de Brechin still in possession of church despite being excommunicated [no reason given], Thomas Ramsay provided.(6)

Earlier reference in 1474 to Stephen (see below) in a charter by George MacLurg, citizen of St Andrews, selling and disponing to Mr Mortimer, vicar of Fordun (Fordone), an annual rent of 15s.(7)

1480 (10 June) Charter by Mr Stephen Mortimer, vicar of the parish church of Fordoun in the diocese of St Andrews, whereby in honour of the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, St Katharine (Katherine) Virgin, St Palladius the granter's patron, and all the saints of the heavenly court he gives and grants the following annual rents, along with five merks of annual rent which the late George Young,  rector of Methil donated to the altar of St James Apostle in the parish church of St Andrews, upon which altar is placed the image of the Blessed Katharine Virgin.(8)  Value £6 10s.(9)

1489 Complaint by Priory of St Andrews that by ancient custom presentation to Fordoun belongs to them, but Hugh Martins presented by the Pope Innocent VIII. St Andrews presents Patrick Simson instead; Hugh eventually vicar.(10)

1544 (11 June) Alexander Strachathin of Thornton agrees to pay on behalf of John, Lord Erskine, 630 marks pa to the prior of St Andrews for the teind scheaves of the church of Fordoun in the Mearns.(11)

References to liturgical provision/architecture/building indulgences etc

1432 Indulgence for pilgrims to the chapel of St Palladius in cemetery of the church, for construction of chapel which is lacking in structure and ornaments.(12)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage is with Priory of St Andrews, value £266 13s 4d 2 c of meal. Perpetual vicar is James Learmonth, 100 marks (£66 13s 4 d); reference made to a curate but no fee specified.(13)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £13 6s 8d.(14)

1682 (24 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun asks the minister (David Auchterlowy) concerning the fabric of the church and the way it was maintained. The minister answers that it is maintained by the heritors, who pay in proportion according to their rents.(15)

1729 (8 Apr) Sir John Carnegie of Pittarrow, was interred in the family burial vault, at the church of Fordoun.(16)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Leslie, 1791): ‘Manse was rebuilt in 1779; the church was rebuilt in 1788’.(17)

‘House still remains in the church yard called St Palladius’ chapel, where it is said an image was kept and to which pilgrimage was made’.(18)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Leslie, 1837): ‘Mensal church of Archbishops of St Andrews’.  An old house which stood at the entry into the churchyard was pulled down within these four years… went formerly by the name of manse and was probably the habitation of the monks’.(19)

Sepulchral reference? ‘Under the pulpit of the old church was discovered a large piece of free stone with depiction of 3 horsemen’. (Leslie suggests related to Kenneth III reputed killed in Fordoun).(20)

‘New church erected in 1828-29 in gothic style, manse rebuilt in 1809’.(21) [no reference to whether new church was on site of old one]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1829 John Smith, architect; refurnished; reconstructed medieval chapel in kirkyard. (Hall church, rectangular hall with a horseshoe gallery).(22)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 68.

2. Chron. Bower, vi. 413.

3. CPL, i, 403.

4. CPL, Clem, 15 & 199.

5. CPL, Ben, 98 & 316-17, CSSR, i, 90.

6. CPL, viii, 190.

7. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/56c.

8. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/88c.

9. Rankin, Church of the Holy Trinity St Andrews, pp. 81-84.

10. CPL, xiv, 286.

11. SCA Stirling, Prot Bk of James Graham, 1543-75, B66/1/3, fol. 13.

12. CSSR, iii, 216.

13. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 16, 17 & 403.

14. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 10.

15. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 57-60.

16. Fraser, History of the Carnegies Earls of Southesk, ii, p. 269.

17. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iv, 497.

18. Ibid, 499.

19. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1837), xi, 67.

20. Ibid, 79-80.

21. Ibid, 104.

22. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp.138, 141 & 260.

Bibliography

NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/88c.

StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/56c.

SCA Stirling, Prot Bk of James Graham, 1543-75, B66/1/3.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Fraser, W., 1867, History of the Carnegies Earls of Southesk and of their Kindred, Edinburgh.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London.

Rankin, W.E.K., 1955, The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity St Andrews, Edinburgh.

Scotichronicon by Walter Bower in Latin and English, 1987-99, D. E. R. Watt, Aberdeen.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The parish church of Fordoun is within the village of Auchenblae. There is likely to have been a long history of Christian worship on the site, that was possibly associated with the cult of the fifth-century St Palladius, who is said in one tradition to have died at Fordoun.(1) It may be more likely, however, that he died elsewhere and that his relics found a last resting place here. The earliest physical evidence for Christianity is a rare inscribed cross slab that was used in the base of the pulpit in 1788, before being displayed in the roofless chapel in the churchyard.(2) It was placed in the church vestibule in 1966.(3)

In the New Statistical Account the parish church was said to have ‘stood two hundred or three hundred years, and was 100 feet long over walls and 24 feet in breadth at the widest and 16 at the narrowest’.(4) The different widths might suggest that it was a two-compartment structure, with a chancel that was narrower than the nave.

The New Statistical Account went on to say that the church had collapsed in 1787 and been replaced by a new one in 1788. However, in 1827 the roof of that replacement  church in turn collapsed, and it was superseded by the present building in 1828-9, to the designs of the architect John Smith of Aberdeen. Smith’s church is a rectangle of four buttressed bays lit by Y-traceried windows with four-centred arches and with a prominent slender western tower.

Within the churchyard, to the south of the parish church, is a small rubble-built chapel of about 13.45 by 7 metres, that is associated with St Palladius. It is possible that it was built to its present form in about 1432, when an indulgence was granted by the pope to those who assisted in its construction.(5) However, there was a major restoration in 1872, and it is uncertain how far that operation perpetuated what was there at the time. There is a burial vault beneath the eastern part of the chapel, approached down a steep flight of steps, suggesting that the principal post-medieval use of the chapel was as a mausoleum.

MacGibbon and Ross in 1897, show the chapel as structurally complete and roofed,(6) though now it is roofless and the west gable has been lost. There are three small rectangular windows with segmental rear arches in the south wall, and doors in the west and north walls. Internally there is an aumbry towards the east end of the north wall that is rebated for a frame, and that may have served as a Sacrament House. Towards the south end of the east wall is a small pointed-arched piscina recess, the basin of which has broken away; the absence of jambs in worked stones suggests that it might have been re-assembled in 1872.

The most puzzling feature is a wide round-arched recess in the east wall, which is framed by a roll moulding, and which has the appearance of a tomb recess. If it has not been relocated here as part of the 1872 restoration, it may be that it was the setting for a reliquary of St Palladius.

Notes

1. James Murray Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland, Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh, 1914, pp. 104-06

2. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt 3, pp. 201-03.

3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore online resource.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 67.

5. Annie I.Dunlop and Ian B. Cowan, eds, Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, 1428-1432 (Scottish History Society), 1970. pp. 216-17.

6. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. 3, 1897, p. 468.

Map

Images

Click on any thumbnail to open the image gallery and slideshow.

  • 1. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, looking east

  • 2. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, exterior, from south west

  • 3. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, exterior, inscription over west door

  • 4. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, exterior, south wall from south east

  • 5. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, aumbry

  • 6. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, east wall

  • 7. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, piscina

  • 8. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, interior, recess in east wall

  • 9. Fordoun (Auchenblae), St Palladius' Chapel, memorial by west door

  • 10. Fordoun (Auchenblae), churchyard, gravestone

  • 11. Fordoun Church, early stone (Allen and Anderson)

  • 12. Fordoun, St Palladius' Chapel (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 13. Fordoun (Auchenblae), Church