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CHURCH OF ST MONANCE.
The south coast of Fife, bordering on the Firth of Forth, is dotted with curious brown rustylooking villages, of a character quite distinct from those of any other part of Scotland, and perhaps of Europe. They are almost all corporations, of an early date in Scottish history, and some of them are royal burghs. They have stood nearly unchanged for centuries, as if the tide of improvement had swept away in some other direction; and thus they present in their uneven angular streets, their high roofs, and crowstepped gables, flanked by occasional turrets, a pretty accurate representation of the corporate towns of our ancestors. Some public edifices, civil and ecclesiastical, raise their heads conspicuously above these little knots of buildings; and the most remarkable of all these is the gray chapel of St Monance, with its steep-roofed chancel, its transept, and its stumpy square tower, surmounted by a petty octagonal steeple. A deserted path, by the edge of a small stream, which discharges itself into the sea from a ravine of no great depth, leads from the public road to the chapel. On entering it, one is struck, not only with the lofty effect of the ribbed roof, but with the general air of good keeping and architectural consistency, so uncommon in a Scottish village church. The limited accommodation required by the thin population of the parish, has, in some measure, protected the architecture from being overlaid by the modern adjuncts of comfort; while a square recess, with ogee-headed compartments for sedilia, and a lavatory niche, have been allowed to remain. There is, however, a certain freshness in the tone of the interior that imperfectly responds to the gray walls and roof: and it becomes evident, on examination, that the building had, at one time, been permitted to make considerable progress towards decay, and that many of the mouldings and other decorations are plaister restorations. There are no appearances to indicate that the edifice was ever more complete than it is at present, or that it ever possessed a nave.
In 1346, occurred the battle of Neville's Cross, near Sunderland, disastrous to the Scots by the slaughter of many of their nobility and the capture of their king, who, in a fatal moment of haughty triumph, resolved to carry his victorious troops into the powerful realm of England. When the wings of the Scottish army had been dispersed, the English archers pressed forward to the centre, where the king was surrounded by the flower of Scottish chivalry. An English Esquire, afterwards knighted for his services on that occasion, laid hands on the king. David struck the aggressor on the face, and with his gauntleted hand dashed out two of his teeth ; but he had suffered two arrow wounds, and, exhausted beyond the ability of maintaining the conflict, he was taken prisoner. The chronicles and saintly legends tell, that one of the arrows still stuck in the wound, and defied the skill of the leeches of the day to remove it; nor was it ever extracted until the king, having made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Monan, standing absorbed in the intensity of his devotions before the image of the saint, it leaped from the wound, as a piece of iron might be attracted by the force of a powerful magnet, and the monarch was instantly healed.* It is difficult to accommodate the
* Brev. Abred. Prop. Sanct. pro temp. Hiemali, fol. lix. Fordun, Scot. Chron. ii. 342. Extracta e Cronicis Scotiæ, 180 Major de Gestis, 244.
CHURCH OF ST MONANCE. 1-2.
CHURCH OF ST MONANCE.
legend to the circumstances with which it is associated even by the chroniclers who relate it; for they have to state that David was immediately conveyed to the Tower of London, and did not return to Scotland until he was permitted to revisit his kingdom, by treaty, five years afterwards. It was in gratitude for his cure that the monarch is said to have replaced the humble chapel erected over the saint's resting-place, by the stately fane of which so fine a remnant still exists. Other miracles were performed in the same place. An insane matron of worshipful rank having been bound and left all night in the church, was found next morning restored to sanity. This species of miracle became, however, of so wide a repute in Scotland, especially in connexion with consecrated fountains, that it bequeathed some barbarous and cruel customs to later times. The identity of this St Monan is a matter of some critical dubiety. According to the Scottish legend, he was a follower of St Adrian, a Hungarian missionary whom the heathen Norsemen murdered on the isle of May in the Firth of Forth. The spot where the church stands was of old called Invery; and there, it is narrated, that St Monan spent the remainder of his days, and, dying a confessor, that his relics were inshrined.* The Irish ecclesiastical historians, however, state that the celebrated St Tigernach received his education in the Monastery of Rosnat, under the holy Abbot Monennus. “ This Monennus," says Lanigan, “ was undoubtedly the same person as Nennio, abbot and bishop of what is called the great monastery in Britain. "Mo’is merely the prefix indicating affection.”+ This inquirer identifies Rosnat with Candida Casa, or Whithorn in Galloway; and a learned correspondent, noticing the confusion in hageology occasioned by the prefix “ Mo,” or “ Ma,” says, “ I think there is little doubt that St Monan is no other than the famous St Ninian of Whithorn, who is called Nynias by Bede, and is identified by the Irish antiquaries with their Monennius.” This theory is confirmed by the incidental circumstance that some of the chroniclers, in alluding to the miraculous cure of King David, and to the church which he built, call its patron St Ninian.
In the register of the great seal, † there occurs a charter of endowment of the chapel, by David II., in the fortieth year of his reign, equivalent to the year 1369. It may be questioned whether this is the charter of foundation, as it notices the chapel as having been already refounded by its granter, and it will be seen that the building must have then made considerable progress. The charter does not refer to any objects of peculiar gratitude to St Monan, but is in the usual terms -for the safety of the soul of the endower, his progenitors, and his successors.
The Chamberlain's Rolls contain various entries, running from 1362 to 1370, of payments made to Sir William Dysschyntoun, Knyht, Sheriff of Fife, for the erection of the edifice; and in the year 1369, Adam the carpenter received £6, 13s. 4d. in part payment of his services and labour in the work. Spotiswood says, “ This chapel, which was a large and stately building of hewn stone, in form of a cross, with a steeple in the centre, was given to the Black Friars by King James III., at the solicitation of Friar John Muir, vicar then of that order amongst us, and afterwards first provincial in Scotland." ||
It does not appear to be known at what period this chapel came into use as the parish church. In 1772, an attempt was made to repair it, which was in a great measure defeated by disputes regarding the class of persons on whom the expense should fall. An effective repair, or, more properly speaking, restoration, was commenced in 1826, and, in the words of the incumbent, “ After all the tedious forms connected with so great a work, we were, in June 1828, put into occupation of one of the most beautiful places of worship of which the country can boast.” T
* Breviarium, ut supra ; Wyntoun, i. 171-2.
+ Eccles. Hist., i. p. 437.
I P. 64. § Chamb. Rolls, i. 394, et seq. to 505. || Religious Houses, Russel's Edition, 445. | New Stat. Account, Fifeshire, 357.