Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Alta Proceritas

Steel engraving and enhancement of the Great Seal of Alexander II, King of Scots, from The Pictorial History of Scotland from the Roman Invasion to the close of the Jacobite Rebellion. A.D. 79-1746, Volume I, (London, 1859), facing page 68.
Steel engraving and enhancement of the Great Seal of Alexander II, King of Scots, from The Pictorial History of Scotland from the Roman Invasion to the close of the Jacobite Rebellion. A.D. 79-1746, Volume I, (London, 1859), facing page 68.

King Alexander, then lying in Kiararey-sound, dreamed a dream, and thought three men came to him. He thought one of them was in royal robes, but very stern, ruddy in countenance, somewhat thick, and of middling size. Another seemed of a slender make, but active, and of all men the most engaging, and majestic. The third again, was of very great stature, but his features were distorted, and of all the rest he was the most unsightly. They addressed their speech to the King, and enquired whether he meant to invade the Hebrides. Alexander thought he answered that he certainly proposed to subject the islands. The Genius of the vision bade him go back; and told him no other measure would turn out to his advantage. The King related his dream; and many advised him to return. But the King would not; and a little after he was seized with a disorder, and died. The Scottish army then broke up; and they removed the King’s body to Scotland. The Hebridians say that the men whom the King saw in his sleep were St Olave King of Norway, St Magnus Earl of Orkney, and St Columba.

The Norwegian Account of Haco’s Expedition Against Scotland,
Rev. James Johnstone, A.M., pp. 10-13.

Illuminated manuscript showing Uther Pendragon, Aethelbert, King Arthur, and Oswald of Northumbria, from Matthew Paris' Epitome of Chronicles.
Uther Pendragon, Aethelbert, King Arthur, and Oswald of Northumbria, from Matthew Paris’ Epitome of Chronicles.

Huius talis honorificentiae viro honorabili ab Omnipotente caelitus collatae etiam unum proferemus exemplum, quod Ossualdo regnatori Saxonico, pridie quam contra Catlonem Britonum regem fortissimum praeliaretur, ostensum erat. Nam cum idem Ossualdus rex esset in procinctu belli castra metatus, quadam die in suo papilione supra pulvillum dormiens, sanctum Columbam in visu videt forma coruscantem angelica; cuius alta proceritas vertice nubes tangere videbatur.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book I, Chapter i.