Document of approval
Document of approval from Pope Honorius III for the establishing of the Order of Preachers

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The Order in Scotland

The friars came to Scotland from England, led by a Scot, Clement, who had studied in Oxford. Clement eventually became bishop of Dunblane, and one of the best known and influential Dominicans of his time. When he died in 1258, houses of the Friars Preachers had been established in the major centres of population in Scotland: Berwick, Ayr, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Aberdeen, Elgin and Inverness. Perth was one of most important Dominican foundations, and it was here that the Order's studium generale was erected. Perth continued to be the centre of studies until the foundation of the Scottish Universities in the fifteenth century, when studia generalia were erected in St Andrews and Glasgow. As was common at the time, religious foundations depended upon patronage, royal or aristocratic. The Black Friars were a mendicant Order, allowed to beg publicly, but this would account for only part of the income they needed for the upkeep of their houses and their work. The records show that the Kings of Scots were generous to the Black Friars, and to other religious foundations in Scotland

The friars would have recruited native Scots, a necessary measure so that preaching could be done in the local languages. This would lead to a closer identification of the presence and work of the friars with the culture, and particularly the politics, of Scotland. Scotland was, and had been for a long time, an independent kingdom. This independence, however, was always threatened by its powerful neighbour England. The Black Friars, along with other religious Orders, identified themselves with the Kings of Scots in their resistance to England. Clement, later bishop of Dunblane, was a strong supporter of the then Scottish king in his struggle against the claims of the English. The decisive event in the history of the Scotland in the High Middle Ages was the Wars of Independence, fought against England, covering a period from 1296 until 1357. The friars were drawn into this conflict, and identified themselves strongly with the struggle for independence. King Robert (Bruce) I was especially generous to the Black Friars, possibly because of their support for him.

The continual tension between Scotland and England made it impossible for the Scottish Dominicans to remain part of the English province. Scotland was turning more and more to France, both having common cause against England. Sometime before 1349 (when the Wars of Independence had been concluded, with Scotland's sovereignty recognised and secure), Scotland became a vicariate, no longer under the jurisdiction of the English Provincial, but directly subordinate to the Master of the Order. In 1481, at the request of King James III (1452-1488), Scotland was erected into a province 'separate and distinct from that of England', and remained so until it was destroyed at the Reformation.

Few documents have survived to allow a detailed knowledge of the day to day work of the friars in Scotland, but it can be assumed that it would have followed the structures of the work and apostolate as laid down in the constitutions, as is found in other countries where more detailed documentation has survived. An important contribution made by the friars to the life of the Church in Scotland is the numbers of Friars who were appointed as bishops. Apart from Clement, the first Dominican to become a Bishop in 1234, seven Dominicans were appointed to sees in Scotland between 1261 and 1299.

The foundation of the Universities in fifteenth century Scotland gave the friars further opportunities to expand their teaching and preaching apostolate.