Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-x2fkq Total loading time: 0.366 Render date: 2022-12-04T09:18:26.863Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Composing St Columba, Hope of the Scots

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2018



The singular Office of St Columba in the Inchcolm Antiphoner, a unique relic celebrated for its distinct Scottish chant, was composed in the late thirteenth century amidst a battle for the claim of Scotland's patron saint. Previous studies of the office have suggested that unique chants reflect a pre-Norman tradition of Celtic chant. This article demonstrates that the office was not only composed much later, and severely edited in the fifteenth century, but also almost entirely composed of contrafacta. Some of these engage directly with the cult of St Andrew, the other saint with a major claim to the patronage of Scottish royalty. Three chants in the office connect the celebration of St Columba at Inchcolm Abbey to music from St Andrews Cathedral as recorded in a St Andrews antiphoner and W1. The office thus bears witness to the authority of music for St Andrew and the association of W1 with his cathedral in the early fourteenth century. The music of the office is not distinctly Scottish, but the office constructed for St Columba reflects the competition between the cults of St Andrew and St Columba in the construction of Scottish identity.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press, 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 On the movement of Columba's relics within the Scottish territories, see Bannerman, John, ‘Comarba Coluim Chille and the relics of Columba’, The Innes Review, 44 (1993), 1447CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 29; Bannerman, John, ‘The Scottish Takeover of Pictland’, in Spes Scotorum Hope of Scots: Saint Columba, Iona and Scotland, ed. Broun, Dauvit and Owen Clancy, Thomas (Edinburgh, 1999), 7194Google Scholar; Dauvit Broun, ‘Dunkeld and the Origin of Scottish Identity’, in Spes Scotorum, 95–111; Thomas Owen Clancy, ‘Iona, Scotland, and the Céli Dé’, in Scotland in Dark Age Britain: The Proceedings of a Day Conference Held on 18 February 1995, ed. Barbara E Crawford (Aberdeen, 1996), 111–30.

2 See Duncan, A.A.M., ‘The Foundation of St Andrews Cathedral Priory, 1140’, Scottish Historical Review, 84 (2005), 137CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Clancy highlighted the royal association with Columba in Thomas Owen Clancy, ‘Scottish Saints and National Identities in the Early Middle Ages’, in Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, ed. Alan Thacker and Richard Sharpe (Oxford, 2002), 397–421. Clancy also noted the early royal family's use of the name Mael Coluim (‘servant of St Columba’). Owen Clancy, Thomas, ‘Columba, Adomnán and the Cult of Saints in Scotland’, in Spes Scotoum Hope of the Scots. Saint Columba, Iona and Scotland, ed. Broun, Dauvit and Owen Clancy, Thomas (Edinburgh, 1999), 334Google Scholar, at 30. Matthew H. Hammond charted the royal and aristocratic support of St Andrew and St Columba during the Europeanisation of saints’ cults in his ‘Royal and Aristocratic Attitudes to Saints and the Virgin Mary in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Scotland’, in The Cult of Saints and the Virgin Mary in Medieval Scotland, ed. Steve Boardman and Eila Williamson, Studies in Celtic History 28 (Woodbridge, 2010), 61–86. For a recent consideration of St Andrew's elevation over St Columba, see Hair, Greta-Mary, ‘Why St Andrew? Why Not St Columba as Patron Saint of Scotland?’, in Music, Liturgy, and the Veneration of Saints of the Medieval Irish Church in a European Context, ed. Buckley, Ann (Turnhout, 2017), 231–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 For the argument that W1 was commissioned by William Malveisin (Mauvoisin), see Everist, Mark, ‘From Paris to St. Andrews: The Origins of W1’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 43 (1990), 142CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I argue that W1 was part of a larger programme to promote the cult of St Andrew in Steiner, ‘Notre Dame in Scotland: W1 and Liturgical Reform at St Andrews’, Ph.D. diss., Princeton University (2013).

5 On the surviving liturgical sources with Scottish provenance, see Mark Holmes, Stephen, ‘Catalogue of Liturgical Books and Fragments in Scotland before 1560’, The Innes Review, 62 (2011), 127212CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Thanks to an anonymous reader for suggesting that although referred to as an Antiphoner, the existing two bifolios more likely were part of a small libellus appended to a larger antiphoner. That would explain the close proximity of the Corpus Christi Office (June 15) to the Office of St Columba (9 June). On the argument for its provenance at Inchcolm Abbey, see Woods, Isobel, ‘Our Awin Scottis Use: Chant Usage in Medieval Scotland’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 112 (1987), 2137CrossRefGoogle Scholar, reprinted in Isobel Woods Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use: Music in the Scottish Church up to 1603, ed. Sally E. Harper, with additional contributions by Warwick Edwards and Gordon J. Munro (Glasgow, 2000), 55–74. Hereafter references will be to the reprinted version.

7 Ann Buckley referred to the cellular and repetitive structures Preece found as evidence of an older regional practice of Irish chant in Scotland in her article on ‘Music and Musicians in Medieval Irish Society’ and in her article on Celtic chant in the Grove Music Dictionary. Buckley, Ann, ‘Music and Musicians in Medieval Irish Society’, Early Music, 28 (2000), 165–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar; eadem, ‘Celtic chant’, Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, John Purser extrapolated Buckley and Preece's suggestion of these unique Celtic qualities in two chants to apply to the entire Office for St Columba in Scotland's Music: A History of the Traditional and Classical Music of Scotland from Early Times to the Present Day (Edinburgh, 2007), 16. Sarah Gibbs Casey recently affirmed these melodic features in the Office for St Columba and chants for Irish saints from continental manuscripts in Gibbs Casey, Sara, ‘Song for the Peregrini: Propers for Irish Saints in Continental Manuscripts’, in Music, Liturgy, and the Veneration of Saints of the Medieval Irish Church in a European Context, ed. Buckley, Ann (Turnhout, 2017), 79100CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 90. However, Buckley considered the problem of addressing Irish chant as an isolated development, and suggested that Preece's findings were more indicative of an earlier European oral tradition than a specifically Scottish tradition in her introduction to the same volume. Ann Buckley, “Introduction,” in Music, Liturgy, and the Veneration of Saints, ed. Buckley, xxviii.

8 See Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 69; Stäblein, Bruno, ‘Zwei Melodien Der Altirischen Liturgie’, in Musicae Scientiae Collectanea: Festschrift Karl Gustav Fellerer Zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. Hüschen, Heinrich (Cologne, 1973), 590–7Google Scholar; Buckley, ‘Music and Musicians in Medieval Irish Society’, 182.

9 The chants that Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, identified as lacking a source chant are marked with an asterisk in Table 1.

10 The effect of Europeanisation on Scottish cults is examined in the essays in Steve Boardman and Eila Williamson, eds., The Cult of Saints and the Virgin Mary in Medieval Scotland, Studies in Celtic History 28 (Woodbridge, 2010).

11 For a description of the Corpus Christi Office in the Inchcolm Antiphoner and its relationship to other early sources, see Justus Corrigan, Vincent, ‘Critical Editions of the Liturgical Manuscripts’, in The Feast of Corpus Christi, ed. Walters, Barbara R., Corrigan, Vincent and Ricketts, Peter T. (University Park, 2006), 77–8Google Scholar, 91. For a list of the contents and a reconstruction of the original quire, see Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 62, 73–4.

12 For a definition of Nothern Textualis libraria, see Derolez, Albert, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 9 (Cambridge, 2003), 72101Google Scholar.

13 All the English examples in Derolez are from the mid-fifteenth century or later. Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books, 95.

14 Of the three major Scottish institutions dedicated to St Columba, the sense of the texts matches Inchcom Abbey best, since they refer both to the choir dedicated to St Columba and protection from the English, as Preece argued in Our Awin Scottis Use, 64.

15 Hiley, David, Western Plainchant: A Handbook (Oxford, 1995), 273Google Scholar; Hughes, Andrew, ‘Late Medieval Rhymed Offices’, Journal of the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, 8 (1985), 3349CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 On the use of rhymed, rhythmic verse in the Office for St Thomas of Canterbury from around 1170, see Hughes, Andrew, ‘Chants in the Rhymed Office of St Thomas of Canterbury’, Early Music, 16 (1988), 185201CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Hughes also noted the frequent use of Goliardic verse in the Office for St Thomas, as well as several later rhymed offices influenced by that of St Thomas.

17 Alan Macquarrie observed that the Lauds chants closely resemble the texts for the Lauds in the fifteenth-century Aberdeen Breviary, which otherwise only shares a hymn and a Magnificat antiphon with the Inchcolm Office. MacQuarrie, Alan, ‘The Offices for St Columba and St Adamnán in the Aberdeen Breviary’, Innes Review: Scottish Catholic Historical Studies, 51 (2000), 139CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 See, for example, the discussion of St Augustine's Office in Hankeln, Roman, ‘St. Olav's Augustine-Responsories: Contrafactum Technique and Political Message’, in Political Plainchant? Music, Text and Historical Context of Medieval Saints’ Offices, ed. idem (Ottawa, 2009), 171–91Google Scholar. The Office for St Thomas of Canterbury also provided model melodies for several later Offices. See John Boyce, James, ‘The Carmelite Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin: A Study in Musical Adaptation’, in The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography: Written in Honor of Professor Ruth Steiner, ed. Baltzer, Rebecca A. and Fassler, Margot E. (New York, 2000), 485520CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Hankeln examines the use of typology in intertextual references in Hankeln, Roman, ‘Intertextual Strategies in the Chants of Medieval Saints’ Offices (Historiae)’, in La Typologie Biblique Comme Forme de Pensée Dans L'Historiographie Médiévale, ed. Thue Kretschmer, Marek (Turnhout, 2014), 197217CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In a strict typology, Columba could not function as the antitype of the Old Testament figures, since Christ is the only proper antitype. Hankeln, ‘Intertextual Strategies’, 202. However, Columba's significance as a figure of salvation history is made evident by means of comparison with Old Testament types that would foreshadow Christ, and his imitation of apostles who themselves imitated Christ.

20 In the Sarum Use it is in the position of the eighth Matins responsory, and in the Graduale Sarisburiense printed by Howard Frere, Walter, Graduale Sarisburiense: A Reproduction in Facsim. of a Ms. of the 13th Century, with a Diss. and Historical Index Illustrating Its Development from the Gregorian Antiphonale Missarum (London, 1894; reprinted in 1966), 26Google Scholar; it is listed for the procession on Sexagesima Sunday. See Bailey, Terence, The Processions of Sarum and the Western Church (Toronto, 1971), 66Google Scholar. In a York Processional printed in York in 1530, Benedicens ergo deus is offered for Quinquagesima Sunday. A Sarum processional held in the National Library of Scotland, GB-En Adv. 18.5.20 lists both Volens noe and Benedicens ergo as options for Septuagesima Sunday.

21 For an introduction to exegesis of Old Testament stories in the Middle Ages, see van Liere, Frans, ‘Biblical Exegesis Through the Twelfth Century’, in The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception and Performance in Western Christianity, ed. Boynton, Susan and Reilly, Diane J. (New York, 2011), 160–1.Google Scholar

22 Ogil Anderson, Marjorie and Orr Anderson, Alan, eds., Adamnán's Life of Columba (Oxford, 1991), 16Google Scholar, 70.

23 Preece mistakenly identified O mira regis as a unique melody in the Inchcolm Office: Our Awin Scottis Use, 69–71.

24 Benedicens ergo appears in the Barnwell Antiphoner (GB-Cu Mm.ii.9, printed as the Howard Frere, Walter, Antiphonale Sarisburiense. A Reproduction in Facsimile from Early Manuscripts (London, 1901–25; reprinted in 1966), 2Google Scholar: 139, hereafter AS), the Worcester Antiphoner (GB-WO F.160, fol. 39r), and the Penpont Antiphoner (GB-AB 20541 E, fol. 59v), as well as several continental sources.

25 Worcester Antiphoner, fol. 40r; Barnwell Antiphoner (AS), 143; Penpont Antiphoner, fol. 62r. This article has benefitted enormously from the Cantus Index database, to which the ‘cao’ numbers refer. ‘Cantus Index: Online Catalogue for Mass and Office Chants’,

26 ‘This is my covenant which you shall observe, between me and you, and thy seed after thee: All the male kind of you shall be circumcised.’ Gn 17:10 Douay-Rheims, 1899.

27 Preece noted this contrafacta in her analysis in Our Awin Scottis Use, 71. While the melody was entirely revised by the editor, the text copied in the original hand mimics the threefold ‘sancte’ in Media vita, suggesting that it was intended to be a contrafactum originally.

28 Preece suggested that Pater Columba mimicked the opening of Ecce virgo concipiet, but it is a much closer match to Te jure, including the repetition of the opening phrase. Some of the recurring units she noted are from Te jure, while others were added to accommodate the longer text of Pater Columba. Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 67–8. However, the composer of Pater Columba did take more liberty in adapting Te jure for the rhymed texts than he did other chants, suggesting that he may have been copying an unidentified formula rather than creating a contrafactum. The need for more research to identify formulas as opposed to direct contrafacta is discussed in Hiley, David, ‘The Historia of St. Julian of Le Mans by Létald of Micy: Some Comments and Questions about a North French Office of the Early Eleventh Century’, in The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages, ed. Fassler, Margot E. and Baltzer, Rebecca A. (Oxford, 2000), 444–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 For the two versions of the legend, see Skene, William F., ed., Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History (Edinburgh, 1867), 138–40Google Scholar, 193. A complete list of the manuscripts sources for both legends can be found in Steiner, ‘Notre Dame in Scotland’, ch. 5. See also Broun, Dauvit, ‘The Church of St Andrews and Its Foundation Legend in the Early Twelfth Century: Recovering the Full Text of Version A of the Foundation Legend’, in Kings, Clerics and Chronicles in Scotland, 500–1297. Essays in Honour of Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson on the Occasion of Her Ninetieth Birthday, ed. Taylor, Simon (Dublin, 2000), 108–14Google Scholar; Taylor, Simon and Márkus, Gilbert, The Place-Names of Fife. Vol. 3: St Andrews and the East Neuk (Donington, 2009), 567–75Google Scholar.

30 ‘Affirmant plerique Scotorum Beatum Apostolum Andream viventem in corpore ibidem fuisse.’ An edition of the account can be found in Taylor and Márkus, The Place-Names of Fife, 601.

31 Stones, Edward L.G., Anglo-Scottish Relations 1174–1328: Some Selected Documents (London, 1965), 85Google Scholar.

32 For a transcription, see Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 68.

33 F-Pn lat.12036 contains all the texts of the music of the Office, fol. 102v–104v, but it is not noted, although a later hand added the incipits for Sarum antiphons in the margin. This is the same antiphoner cited by Everist as evidence of the origins of W1 during the time of William Malveisin, the patron of F-Pn lat.12036. The Office for St Andrew in this manuscript also bears the same unusual order of responsories for St Andrew as W1. See Everist, ‘From Paris to St. Andrews’.

34 An edition of the text of the Wells Translation Office and description of the breviary fragment is given in Watkin, Aelred, ed., Dean Cosyn and Wells Cathedral Miscellanea, Somerset Record Society 56 (London, 1943), 150–2Google Scholar.

35 The Wells Translation Office of three lessons from mostly repeats antiphons and responsories for the main feast in the Sarum Use, including the same two responsories found in F-Pn lat.12036 and W1, Vir iste in populo v. Pro eo and Vir perfecte pietatis v. Imitator Ihesu, although not in the same order. The one unique responsory, O festiva dies v. Grecia magnificum specifically refers to the translation of St Andrew's relics to Constantinople by Constantine.

36 Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 69.

37 On the importation of English Norman chant to Scotland, see Warwick A. Edwards, ‘Chant in Anglo-French Scotland’, in Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 201–54.

38 Ave sanctorum Columba is the only antiphon in the Inchcolm Antiphoner whose text is found in another source for an Office of St Columba, the sixteenth-century Aberdeen Breviary. Ave sanctorum Columba thus very likely had a wider circulation than the rest of the Office in the Inchcolm Antiphoner, and might have been revised later at Inchcolm to reflect the more common version. See Macquarrie, ‘The Offices for St Columba and St Adamnán in the Aberdeen Breviary’, 25.

39 Houston Baxter, James, ed., Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree: The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418–1443) (New York, 1930), 120.Google Scholar

40 Harrison, Frank Ll., Music in Medieval Britain (London, 1958), 82.Google Scholar

41 Watts, Donald E.R., ‘Biography of Bower’, in Scotichronicon, trans. Watts, Donald E.R., 9 vols. (Aberdeen, 1989), 9: 204–5Google Scholar.

42 For an edition and commentary, see Athol Anderson, Gordon, ed., Notre-Dame and Related Conductus, 10 vols. (Henryville, 1979), 4: 70–2Google Scholar. Anderson suggested that it was intended for the Feast of Fools.

43 Watt, Donald E.R., A Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Graduates to A.D. 1410 (Oxford, 1977), 477Google Scholar.

44 For a more thorough examination of this letter and its consequences for a dating and provenance of W1, see Steiner, ‘Notre Dame in Scotland’, 69–123.

45 Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 55–74. The title of her article and book came from the licence issued by James IV in 1507 to print liturgical books in ‘our awin Scottish use’, but as Preece demonstrated, that meant little more than the addition of some Scottish saints to the Sarum Use. The singular result of James's commission, the Aberdeen Breviary edited and printed by Bishop William Elphinstone, largely reflected the Sarum Use that had been predominant in the Scottish realm since the thirteenth century and contained no notation.

46 In MacQuarrie's analysis of the textual sources for St Columba's Office, he found that the hymns used a middle Irish life of St Columba, the Betha Colaim Cille written around 1150, and thus may have come from Ireland or Iona Abbey. MacQuarrie, ‘The Offices for St Columba and St Adamnán in the Aberdeen Breviary’, 6–7. The Office for St Kentigern was likely copied in Scotland, but Greta Mary Hair suggested that the reference to the kingdom of Strathclyde associates it with Welsh identity. Mary Hair, Greta and Knott, Betty I., eds., Vespers, Matins and Lauds for St Kentigern, Patron Saint of Glasgow, Scotica, Musica 6 (Glasgow, 2011), 30–3Google Scholar.

47 Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 69; Purser, Scotland's Music, 46.

48 The breviary is from Caen (F-Pa 279, fol. 214v) but Stäblein believed they were Irish because of references in two earlier Irish texts. Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use, 69; Stäblein, ‘Zwei Melodien Der Altirischen Liturgie’.

49 Among many examples of music performances and ensembles claiming that the Columba Office has Celtic roots, see the Inchcolm New Music Ensemble, inspired by ‘the magnificent Celtic plainchant that comes from Inchcolm’, and the speculative reconstruction of Celtic music using the Inchcolm Office on ‘In Praise of St Columba’. Steve King, ‘Inchcolm New Music Ensemble – News: Heriot Watt University’,, and Gonville and Caius College Choir, In Praise of St Columba, CD, directed by Geoffrey Weber. Delphian Records, DCD34137 (2014).

50 On chant in the post-Norman period, see Warwick A. Edwards, ‘Chant in Anglo-French Scotland’, in Preece, Our Awin Scottis Use.

51 See Clancy, ‘Scottish Saints and National Identities in the Early Middle Ages’.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Composing St Columba, Hope of the Scots
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Composing St Columba, Hope of the Scots
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Composing St Columba, Hope of the Scots
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *