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Crínán of Dunkeld

Crínán of Dunkeld (died 1045) was the hereditary abbot of the monastery of Dunkeld, and perhaps the Mormaer of Atholl. Crínán was progenitor of the House of Dunkeld, the dynasty which would rule Scotland until the later 13th century. He was the son-in-law of one king, and the father of another.


In the year 1000 Crínán was married to Bethóc, daughter of Máel Coluim mac Cináeda (Malcolm II) (King of Scots, who reigned from 1005 to 1034). As Máel Coluim had no surviving son, this allowed a hereditary claim to the Scottish throne to descend through Bethóc. Crínán and Bethóc's son, Donnchad (Duncan I),[1] who reigned from 1034 to 1040. Two additional children have been attributed to Crínán: a daughter who was mother of Moddan, Earl of Caithness, and a son Maldred, Lord of Allerdale.[2] The latter is said by De obsessione Dunelmi to have been son of Crinan, than (thegn Crínán), identified as Crínán of Dunkeld by historian W. F. Skene, though this identity has been challenged as insufficiently supported or erroneous by some scholars, such as G. W. S. Barrow.[3] Maldred married Ealdgyth, daughter of Uhtred the Bold and granddaughter of King Æthelred the Unready, and was father of Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria and ancestor of the Earls of Dunbar.[2]

In 1045, Crínán of Dunkeld rose in rebellion against Macbeth in support of his 14-year-old grandson, Malcolm III's claim to the throne.[4] Malcolm was the elder son of Crinan's son, the late King Duncan, who predeceased his father. However, Crínán, by then an elderly man, was killed in a battle at Dunkeld, as was Maldred of Allerdale.[2][5]

Abbot of Dunkeld

The monastery of Saint Columba was founded on the north bank of the River Tay in the 6th century or early 7th century following the expedition of Columba into the land of the Picts. It may have continued to draw its hierarchy from the Cenél Conaill of Donegal.[6] Iain Moncreiffe argued that Crinán belonged to a Scottish sept of the Irish Cenél Conaill royal dynasty.[7] Alternatively, Christopher Cairney proposed a Cenél nEógain descent for the House of Dunkeld.[8]

While the title of Hereditary Abbot (coarb in Gaelic) was a feudal position that was often exercised in name only, Crinán does seem to have acted as Abbot in charge of the monastery in his time. He was thus a man of high position in both clerical and secular society.

The magnificent semi-ruined Dunkeld Cathedral, built in stages between 1260 and 1501, stands today on the grounds once occupied by the monastery. The Cathedral contains the only surviving remains of the previous monastic society: a course of red stone visible in the east choir wall that may have been re-used from an earlier building, and two stone ninth - or tenth-century cross-slabs in the Cathedral Museum.


  1. ^ MacPherson, Aeneas (July 1902). The Loyall Dissuasive. Edinburgh. p. 41:lxxxv. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Paul, James Balfour (1906). The Scots Peerage (PDF). 3. Edinburgh. pp. 239–245.
  3. ^ Aird, William M. St. Cuthbert and the Normans: The Church of Durham, 1071-1153. Woodbridge, Suff: Boydell. p. 69, n. 41. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  4. ^ Knox, James. The topography of the basin of the Tay, Andrew Shorteed, Edinburgh, 1831
  5. ^ The Annals of Tigermach p. 385
  6. ^ Woolf, Alex. "The Problem with Crínán", From Pictland to Alba, Edinburgh University Press, 2007
  7. ^ Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, The Highland Clans. Part II. 1982. p. 236
  8. ^ Cairney, Christopher (2018). "Other Dragons or Dragon Others? A Cultural View of the Loch Ness Monster". Monsters of Film, Fiction and Fable: 397. ISBN 9781527510890.

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