18.10.13, Brown and Stevenson (eds.), Medieval St Andrews

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Kylie Murray

The Medieval Review 18.10.13

Brown, Michael, and Katie Stevenson, eds. Medieval St Andrews: Church, Cult, City . St Andrews Studies in Scottish History. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017. pp. 399+xviii. ISBN: 978-1-78327-168-9 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Kylie Murray
Christ's College, Cambridge
kmm65@cam.ac.uk

As home to the cult of Scotland's national saint; the ecclesiastical capital of the Scottish kingdom; and site of Scotland's first university, St Andrews has held unique importance for scholars from the Middle Ages to the present day. The prose-Latin Scotichronicon (1440s) of Walter Bower provides the inaugural account of the University's foundation, and gave rise to a tradition of exploring St Andrews which continues today. Ronald Cant's University accounts, The University of St Andrews: A Short History (Edinburgh, 1946), and his The College of St Salvator (Edinburgh and London, 1950), have been complemented by studies of St Andrews' ecclesiastical context: valuable documentary evidence is reproduced in J.H. Baxter's volume, Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree (St Andrews, 1930), and more recently, there is David McRoberts' essay collection, The Medieval Church of St Andrews (Glasgow, 1976). Visual culture and book history have received the most recent attention, in John Higgitt's essay collection, Medieval Art and Architecture in the Diocese of St Andrews (Leeds, 1994), and Norman Reid and Marc Boulay's Treasures of St Andrews University Library (London, 2010). Most commonly, however, St Andrews receives partial attention in Scottish essay collections, such as Simon Taylor's essay collection, Kings, Clerics and Chronicles in Scotland 500-1297 (Dublin, 2000).

Michael Brown and Katie Stevenson's new volume is therefore a much needed, very welcome, and admirably sophisticated reshaping of how we approach and understand Medieval St Andrews. Holistic, wide-ranging, yet thorough, this dedicated study encompasses work of uniquely interdisciplinary significance, whose essays have implications for scholars of Scottish, British, and European history; literature and book history; theology; art-history and visual culture; archaeology and material culture; cultural history; intellectual history, and the history of ideas. Another crucial aspect of the collection is the way it traverses periodisation by addressing St Andrews from the twelfth to the late sixteenth-century, and directly considering Reformation St Andrews at several junctures. To find such breadth and depth of coverage in one volume is a remarkable feat, to be celebrated.

Brown and Stevenson's Introduction sets the context of scholarship on St Andrews with rigour and lucidity, summarising not only the essays to come, but the current state of knowledge on the origins of the cult of St Andrew (3-6), the development of the Augustinian Priory, the diocesan structure, and the Bishopric of St Andrews (6-8), its holdings of manuscripts and role as a centre of historical writing (8-10), and the urban community (11-14), all replete with footnotes of the highest scholarly quality, which will aid readers of all levels.

The Introduction and the volume as a whole take an innovative, comparative approach by according far greater prominence to the contexts informing St Andrews: whether comparing St Andrews to Compostela on account of its housing relics (Campbell, 48); comparing the University to other Scottish and European institutions (Mason, 269; Luxford, 302), or comparing the city to Dunfermline, Aberdeen, and Carlisle (Ditchburn, 101), this underpinning methodology highlights a far more European city than has hitherto been recognised, at a time when Scotland's European identity is a topical and live issue. The book is divided into thematic clusters, as we shall see below.

The first essays are on the earliest formations of St Andrews. Combining material, literary, and visual evidence, Simon Taylor's essay ("From Cinrigh Monai to Civitas Sancti Andree: A Star is Born," 20-34) provides a precise and lively account of the earliest stages of St Andrews' development, including the 'surge in popularity' of St Andrew's cult in the eleventh century (27), and the two foundation legends which led St Andrews to become the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland from the twelfth century to the Reformation. Similarly, Ian Campbell's essay, "The Idea of St Andrews as the Second Rome Made Manifest" (35-50) presents intriguing early evidence for an affinity in layout between the Burgh of St Andrews and the Vatican Borgo (40ff), which could date as early as 965, and be rooted in the Pictish monastery of Kinrimund (46).

A further vital contribution is made by tracing various cultural influences upon St Andrews: particularly notable here are the essays by Richard Fawcett, "The Medieval Ecclesiastical Architecture of St Andrews as a Channel for the Introduction of New Ideas" (51-83), which considers not only the Cathedral precinct but also Holy Trinity Parish Church (which moved in the fifteenth century to its current site); St Salvator's Chapel with its Continental influences; the Dominican Church, whose remains are still seen on South Street; St Mary's College Chapel; St Leonard's College Chapel; and the Castle Chapel. His conclusion, that these combined to form 'an exhilarating heavenward-reaching skyline' is as true today as it was in the 1500s, and also emblematic of the way in which this volume as a whole succeeds in making early St Andrews come vividly alive for all readers.

Tom Turpie's essay, comparing the management of the shrine and cult of St Andrews with other Scottish Cathedrals of the later Middle Ages, including Dunkeld, Glasgow, and Whithorn (84-98), intriguingly dispels a number of preconceptions: it is surprising, for instance, to read that "English visitors could still be found at the shrine [of St Andrew] on the eve of the Wars of Independence" (85), and that Edward I venerated the shrine during his conquest of Scotland (85). Ditchburn's essay presents an especially animated account of "Religion, Ritual and the Rhythm of the Year in Later Medieval St Andrews" (99-116). The detail of his account reads as the most comprehensive and vivid account to date of what life was like in this period: it is simply fascinating to read of University students being disciplined for cock-fighting on Shrove Tuesday and playing May games (110), and of James I's extensive Yuletide entertainments, including cards, dice, plays, mumming, dancing, and carol singing in 1425 (114). This essay bespeaks a defining feature of the entire collection: more extensive engagement with St Andrews' own Archival and Special Collections material is to be heartily encouraged and welcomed.

Elizabeth Ewan's essay, "Living in the Late Medieval Town of St Andrews" (117-140) comments on how a range of residents earned their living (120-130), while discussing an area often overlooked: families in St Andrews, including women in their role as wives, mothers, or landowners (133-137), or even concubines for local clergy (137). This approach is complemented by Matthew Hammond's "The Burgh of St Andrews before the Wars of Independence" (141-172), which discusses a charter granting liberties to burgesses in St Andrews, still extant in the University Library (shelfmark: B65/23/1c). Dating 1153x62, this earliest royal charter to a burgh in the Scottish kingdom surely renders the document a national treasure. The second focus of the essay is the growth of the Burgh, alongside but independently from the Church, with specific detail on a number of named families.

The book takes a further material turn with the joint essay by Derek Hall and Catherine Smith, "The Archaeology of Medieval St Andrews" (173-204), which sets out "an accessible synthesis" of fieldwork undertaken in St Andrews alongside burgh survey material. Here is where early St Andrews is at its most visible to us, at the remarkable level of detail of modern day house number and street name, showing recoveries from excavations, including such fascinating objects as pottery from c.1200-c.1400 in Market Street (182); the find-spot of the sculptured sarcophagus/altar tomb, dating to the 8th or 9th century AD, yet (re)discovered only in 1833 near St Rule's Church (197); and even a bronze hoard from the 8th or 9th century BC at Priestden Place (204).

Michael Brown's essay, "Prelates, Citizens and Landed Folk: St Andrews as a Centre of Lordship in the Late Middle Ages" (205-222) reconstructs a sense of the personalities and activities with connections to Church, University, and Burgh, including John Hepburn, and John Scheves, one of the University's first teachers, and possible father to the distinguished Archbishop and significant book collector, William Scheves (d.1497). As with Brown's piece, documentary evidence also underpins Bess Rhodes' essay, "Augmenting Rentals: The Expansion of Church Property in St Andrews, c.1400-1560" (223-236), where she sets out clearly the complex and expanding ecclesiastical foundations going into the sixteenth century, including the Observant Franciscan friary, founded by Bishop Kennedy in 1458 (228), the Dominican Friary (229), and numerous chaplainries attached to Holy Trinity Church (232), before discussing the shifting landscape by the time of the Reformation. Rhodes gives us a new understanding of the extent of growth in church property during the later Middle Ages as an important part of the development of St Andrews as religious centre.

The cluster of four remaining chapters deals with St Andrews as a seat of learning, primarily focusing on the University. The book's structural arrangement here reflects the thematic agenda of the book in situating St Andrews in as broad a context as possible: taken together thus far, the essays have reminded us to look well beyond the Cathedral precinct, well beyond the Ecclesiastical, and well beyond even Scotland itself. The first of these closing chapters, Norman Reid's "Prehistory of the University of St Andrews" (237-267) continues the book's hallmark approach of focusing not principally on the fifteenth century, but instead charting the progression from the earliest foundations of St Andrews to its cultural, intellectual, and ecclesiastical high point in the later Middle Ages. Indeed, Reid's essay surely has claim to be the most ground-breaking of the collection, with significance for all Medievalists studying Europe's intellectual history. For Reid convincingly refutes James Maitland Anderson's early twentieth-century theory that the University was founded suddenly, as a result of a 'crisis' in demand for Scottish Universities following the Great Schism of 1378 (241-243). By contrast, he points out the European context of St Andrews' foundation and Scots studying abroad. The most compelling part of the essay, if not the volume, comes with his careful exposition of textual references in early documents to scholars, learning and students which suggest St Andrews as a place of education "perhaps by the eleventh century or earlier" (253), rendering this the earliest seat of higher learning in Britain, thus according St Andrews a fresh and exciting significance not previously observed. Medievalists can radically rethink and reappraise Scotland's intellectual culture with Reid's concluding statement: "...the creation of the University of St Andrews was not a response to a sudden emergency but was in fact a gradual process of evolution out of a centuries-old universitas" (267). This essay's exciting, innovative premise is matched by Roger Mason's extensive exploration of the University from foundation to Reformation, "University, City and Society" (268-297). From the outset, with admirable precision and clarity, Mason signposts us through the matters of who went to University, why, what they studied, and their graduate careers, with a marked emphasis on the European backdrop of the University, "link[ing] the Scottish intelligentsia to Continental centres of learning" (297). His brilliantly crisp, clear summary of dense, detailed information concerning typical university populations, structures and curricula, including explanations of nominalists and realists (270-273), precedes St Andrews' early development in terms of organisation, administration, and subjects offered, often in conjunction with the Cathedral Priory in the case of Canon and Civil Law (274). Julian Luxford's essay, "The Medieval Maces of the University of St Andrews" is nothing short of a visual delight in providing the fullest account to date of these University treasures which are still in use today, and which "rise above all the lost books and forgotten acts to declare in shining images the ultimate values" of the University's early administrators (330). An enthralling close-up is provided in text and image of each mace, alongside the terms, types, and uses of each. He continues the European-theme of preceding chapters to point out that while we may call St Andrews "Scotland's first University," and Britain's third-oldest, it is in fact forty-sixth in order of European foundations (302).

Katie Stevenson's final chapter, "Heresy, Inquisition, and Late Medieval St Andrews," identifies a strong tradition of St Andrews as a magnet for heterodox thinkers, including Wyclifites and Lollards (often described in other English accounts as irrelevant to Scotland). Hers is a fitting chapter with which to close, since she suggests new directions for research, particularly where the reception of Laurence of Lindores' writings on the Continent, are concerned, including Prague (339, n.39). Her chapter focuses particularly acutely the fresh perspectives of St Andrews afforded by this collection.

The methodology behind the collection's four appendices (345-387) is a little opaque in places: Simon Taylor's translation of "The St Andrews Foundation Account" only provides English, and not the original Latin, and only recounts the later version B (c.1150), where it could also have included version A (c.1100, referred to throughout the collection) for fullness and comparison. Appendix 2 comprises "AA," "The Augustinians' Account," an eye-witness account of the Augustinians coming to St Andrews in 1140; again, only the English is provided, where the Latin may have been useful. Appendix 3, "The Boar's Raik" describes tracts of land which were of significance to the church, while Appendix 4, "University of St Andrews Library, UYSL 110/6/4," by Matthew Hammond, pleasingly includes both Latin transcription and English translation of a fourteenth-century land charter of sale of land on Market Street. A gloss on the significance of this final Appendix would be helpful. Greater cross-referencing between essays, to help direct the reader, would also be welcome in a volume where overlap is common, although the thorough index compensates for this.

Overall, this collection, is authoritative, and compelling through its innovation and vibrant approach. Its accessibility and inclusivity through multiple illustrations, charts, tables, and even a glossary (in the case of Fawcett's chapter), mean that this book can reach the widest possible audience, rendering it a triumph in opening up St Andrews for experts and beginners alike. We can see St Andrews in a completely new light: one which brings it alive and reconstructs with greater precision than ever before a sense of the intersection between Church, Burgh, and University. The stated aim of the collection, "to consider St Andrews as a centre with multiple roles and communities, and to examine the nature of these in different periods and with an eye to points of overlap and interaction" (4)--has been achieved with the highest scholarly acumen. This collection of essays is exemplary and should inspire researchers and students from diverse disciplines for generations to come.

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