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The Foundation and Patronage of Nunneries by Native Elites in Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century Scotland

The Foundation and Patronage of Nunneries by Native Elites in Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century Scotland

By R. Andrew McDonald

Women in Scotland: c.1100 – c.1750, edited by Elizabeth Ewan and Maureen M. Meikle (East Linton, 1999)

Introduction: In the century between about 1140 and 1240, at least eleven Benedictine, Cistercian, or Augustinian nunneries were founded in Scotland: Lincluden (Benedictine); Berwick, Coldstream, Eccles, Elcho, Haddington, Manuel, North Berwick and Abbey St Bathans (Cistercian); Iona and Perth (Augustinian).’ Geographically, their distribution was centred in the east with only two located in the west and southwest. In general, the growth of nunneries reflects the transformation of religious life taking place in the twelfth-century kingdom, while at the same time mirroring the widening opportunities for religious women that characterises the twelfth century across western Europe. Although the Scottish foundations pale in comparison with both the number of monasteries established for men in the same kingdom and with the contemporary growth of nunneries in other regions of Britain (notably Ireland and England), the subject of Scottish nunneries has been too much neglected.

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