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Original Charters of the Abbey of Cupar, 1219-1448

WO years ago I communicated a charter of the abbot and convent of Cupar,1 discovered by Mr. William Brown, secretary of the Surtees Society, among the Citeaux deeds preserved at Dijon. By this deed, dated January, 1219-1220, Abbot Alexander and his convent entered into a bond with the mother house of Citeaux for the yearly payment at Troyes of thirty marks or twenty pounds, which King Alexander II., for the good of his soul, gave to the monks of Citeaux as a procuration for the abbots in attendance there on the fourth day of the General Chapter of the Order. My note in the Review elicited from Mr. Maitland Thomson an interesting letter, with which he sent me transcripts of seven charters from the muniment room of the Earl of Moray, all touching on the same transaction and explaining the provisions of the Dijon charter. Though anxious to recognise at once the magnanimity of that generous scholar, I hesitated to return to the subject of the Cupar obligation till Mr. Brown had an opportunity for further search at Dijon, then in contemplation, in the hope that he might meet with King Alexander's grant to the mother house. I felt that it would be of the greatest interest if the royal charter, originating the obligation to Citeaux, could be discovered. Now that Mr. Brown has revisited Dijon and failed to find King Alexander's charter, there seems to be, so far as I am concerned, no further reason for delay in communicating the additional evidence.

But one advantage to our inquiry has resulted from Mr. Brown's second visit to Dijon. As doubts had been raised about the genuineness of Abbot Alexander's charter, I asked him to examine it again. Writing from Dijon on 15th May last, after a second inspection of the deed, Mr. Brown says that the Cupar document is undoubtedly an original. Part of the twisted silk cord for the seal still exists.' On the dorse-'xxvij (red) quod 1 S.H.R. viii. 172-6.


abbas et conuentus de Cupro tenentur nobis soluere xxx marcas annuatim. xj. Littera xj.' On the disputed point of originality we may without hesitation accept the opinion of an experienced palaeographist like Mr. Brown, who twice examined the document.

As the deeds now known to us, touching the new relations between the abbeys of Cupar and Citeaux, form a consecutive series, it may be permissible to reprint the Dijon charter as an introduction to the rest:


Ego, frater Alexander, dictus. abbas de Cupro eiusdemque loci conuentus, omnibus presentes litteras inspecturis, notum facimus quod tenemur Domui Cistercii in triginta marcis sterlingorum legalium singulis annis in posterum in nundinis Tresensibus in festo apostolorum Petri et Pauli persoluendis, quas Vir Nobilis Alexander, rex Scocie, pro remedio anime sue

et antecessorum et successorum

suorum, in perpetuam elemosinam dicte Domui contulit pro procurandis abbatibus apud Cistercium quarto die Capituli generalis, de quibus triginta marcis prefatus Rex nobis ad uoluntatem nostram plenarie satisfecit. Quod ut ratum et firmum permaneat in posterum presentem cartam sigilli nostri munimine roborauimus. Actum anno gracie M°cc° nonodecimo, mense Januario.


I, brother Alexander, called abbot of Cupre, and the convent of the same place, make known to all who shall see the present letter, that we are bound to the House of Citeaux in thirty marks of lawful money, to be paid yearly hereafter in the fair of Troyes on the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which the illustrious Alexander, King of Scotland, for the relief of his soul and of the souls of his ancestors and successors, bestowed on the said House in perpetual alms, towards the cost of maintaining the abbots at Citeaux on the fourth day of the General Chapter: in respect of which thirty marks the said King, at our desire, has given us full compensation. That this (obligation) may continue valid and unalterable hereafter we have confirmed the present writing with the security of our seal. Done in the month of January in the year of grace 1219.

When this deed was first printed, Sir Archibald Lawrie called attention to the indebtedness of the people of Scotland to the

1 Procurare and procuratio are well-known technical terms in ecclesiastical law. Procurations,' says Bishop Dowden, 'consisted originally in the hospitable entertainment of the bishop and his attendant train when he came to make his visitation of the parish churches. In process of time this obligation was commuted for a payment in money' (Medieval Church of Scotland, p. 118): they were also due to archdeacons when they visited. The words have the same signification, mutatis mutandis, when applied to the visitation of the abbots to the General Chapter.

house of Citeaux in the peculiar difficulties which beset them at the period when it was issued. 'It is not surprising,' he said,1 'to find a charter in France which shews that Alexander II., King of Scotland, helped his Scottish monasteries by agreeing to provide thirty marks of silver a year for the expenses of the General Council of the Cistercians.' The Order had in fact been instrumental in helping the King to fight the papal legate, and it was natural that the services should be in some way recognised.


In 1218, when the trouble was at its worst, the abbot of Cupar was one of the Scottish abbots summoned to Rome for disregarding the legate's orders, but the upshot of the negotiation, little of which is actually told us, was altogether in Scotland's favour. The abbot of Cupar's participation in diplomacy of this nature enables us in a measure to understand the favour that King Alexander bestowed on that house. The association of Cupar and Citeaux in the same grant appears to predicate an alliance in the same transaction. The next charter of the series leaves little doubt about it.


Alexander, Dei gracia, rex Scottorum, omnibus probis hominibus tocius terre sue, clericis et laicis, salutem. Sciant presentes et futuri, nos, consentiente venerabili patre episcopo Sancti Andree, dedisse, concessisse et hac carta nostra confirmasse Deo et ecclesie Sancte Marie de Cupro et monachis ibidem Deo seruientibus ecclesiam de Eroline cum omnibus iustis pertinentiis suis. Tenendam in puram et perpetuam elemosinam. Reddendo inde annuatim ex parte nostra capitulo Cistercii ad procurationem capituli generalis quarto die viginti libras sterlingorum. Salua Roberto de Haya tenura eiusdem ecclesie in uita sua. Testibus Willelmo de Boscho cancellario, comite Patricio, comite Malcolmo de Fife, Alano filio Rollandi constabulario, Alexandro vicecomite de Striuelin, Waltero de Lindesei,

1 S.H.R. viii. 177.


Alexander, by the grace of God, King of Scots, to all the good men of his whole land, clerical and lay, greeting. Know present and future that we, with the consent of the venerable father, the Bishop of St. Andrews, have given, granted, and by this our charter confirmed, to God and the church of St. Mary of Cupre and to the monks there serving God, the church of Eroline with all its right belongings. To be held in pure and perpetual alms. By rendering thence yearly on our behalf to the chapter of Citeaux, for the procuration of the General Chapter on the fourth day, twenty pounds of sterlings. Saving to Robert of Hay the incumbency of the same church during his life. Witnesses, William of Bois, chancellor, Earl Patrick, Earl Malcolm of Fife, Alan son of Rolland, constable, Alexander

2 Chron. de Mailros, p. 133.

Johanne de Maccuswele, Thoma de
Striuelin clerico cancellarii. Apud
Edenburgh iij. die Octobris.1

In the light of the Dijon charter it may be assumed that King Alexander's grant to Cupar was made on 3rd October, 1219. By comparison with the copy in the breviate of the ancient register, published by the Grampian Club, it will be seen how much the original adds to our knowledge of what took place. If we accept fifty marks as the yearly revenue of the church of Airlie, as valued for the purpose of taxation in the thirteenth century, the monks of Citeaux, as we might expect, were about to succeed to the lion's share. Twenty marks would be only left to the monks of Cupar, out of which they would have to provide for religious ministrations in that church and parish. It was stipulated, however, that the King's charter would remain inoperative till the death or cession of Robert of Hay, the existing parson.

sheriff of Stirling, Walter of Lindesay, John of Maxwell, Thomas of Stirling, chancellor's clerk. At Edinburgh, third day of October.

But the monks of Cupar were not slow in turning to the best advantage the King's gift: they did not wait till the death of the incumbent. For the appropriation of the revenues of the church, the consent of the Bishop and Chapter of St. Andrews was necessary. Though the Bishop's charter is not forthcoming, we may be sure that it had been given, for it was by virtue of his sanction that the prior and convent were enabled to act. The charter of the convent here printed presupposes the issue of the Bishop's charter of confirmation.


Uniuersis sancte matris ecclesie filiis has litteras uisuris uel audituris, Symon prior ecclesie Sancti Andree et eiusdem loci conventus eternam in Domino salutem. Nouerit uniuersitas uestra nos communi consensu et assensu capituli nostri concessisse et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse donationem illam quam Alexander, Dei gratia, rex Scottorum, et uenerabilis pater Willelmus, Dei gratia, episcopus Sancti Andree, fecerunt Deo et ecclesie Beate Marie de

1 Cupar Charters, div. iv. no. 5. Erolin. Donacio ecclesie de Eroli.'

2 Reg. of Cupar Abbey, i. 327.


To all the sons of holy mother church who shall see or hear this letter, Symon, prior of the church of St. Andrews, and the convent of the same place [send] eternal health in the Lord. Let it be known to all of you that we, by the common consent and assent of our chapter, have granted and by this our present charter have confirmed that gift which Alexander, by the grace of God, King of Scots, and the venerable father William, by the grace of Seal gone. The charter is endorsed: 'De

8 Reg. de Dunfermelyn (Bann. Club), 210.

Cupro et monachis ibidem Deo seruientibus de ecclesia de Erolin. Tenenda in puram et perpetuam elemosinam. Saluis episcopalibus et salua tenura Roberti de Haya in vita sua. Reddendo inde annuatim capitulo Cistercii uiginti libras sterlingorum ad procurationem generalis capituli quarta die sicut in cartis eorum continetur. Vt autem ista concessio robur perpetue firmitatis optineat eam presentis pagine testimonio et sigilli nostri appositione roborauimus. Valete. Teste toto capitulo nostro.'

God, Bishop of St. Andrews, have made to God and the church of the Blessed Mary of Cupre and to the monks there serving God of the church of Erolin, to hold in pure and perpetual alms. Saving episcopal dues and saving the incumbency of Robert of Hay during his life. By rendering thence yearly to the chapter of Citeaux twenty pounds of sterlings for the procuration of the General Chapter on the fourth day as it is contained in their charters. That this grant may maintain vigor and force for ever we have confirmed it by the evidence of this sheet and by the addition of our seal. Farewell. Our whole chapter is witness.

Though the rights of Robert of Hay, the incumbent, were safeguarded in all the acts of the appropriators, the monks found a way to anticipate the avoidance of the church by entering into relations with him for the farming of the revenues during his life. In 1220, the year after King Alexander's grant, an agreement was made between the monastery and the incumbent whereby the monks took over the whole revenues of the church on condition of allowing the incumbent a yearly pension of forty marks while he lived. It was provided that the monks should find a suitable chaplain to minister to the parishioners, and should discharge all the obligations due from the church to the Bishop of the diocese. Thus, before the monks of Cupar could receive any benefit from the appropriation they had first to pay forty marks as a pension to the incumbent and thirty marks to the monks of Citeaux, provide the stipend of a parochial chaplain, and discharge all episcopal dues. If the monks were not to be considerable losers by the transaction, it seems clear that the value of the revenues of the church of Airlie were much in excess of the amount stated in the taxation given in the Register of Dunfermline. But there is

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1Cupar Charters, div. 5, bundle 2, no. 50. Seal gone: the silk threads, red, green, and yellow, by which it was attached, remain. Endorsed: 'De Herolin,' (and later) Confirmatio capituli Sanctiandree de Erolin.' In the same depository, div. 5, bundle 2, no. 51, there is a duplicate, to which the seal remains attached by the ordinary parchment tag. The only variations are R. for Roberti and xx for uiginti. It is endorsed: Conuentus Sancti Andree de Erolin,' and, in a later hand, Confirmacio capituli Sancti Andree in duplici forma.'

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