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Medieval parish formation in Orkney

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers the formation of ecclesiastical parishes in Orkney in the high Middle Ages. The ecclesiastical development of the islands was that a form of pre-parochial church organisation based on privately owned 'ursland' chapels, was later replaced by the parish kirks and the parochial system proper. Clouston noticed that many of the parish churches were built on earldom land, and he associated the earldom and bishopric Bus with church and chapel sites. The implication from Clouston's interpretation is that first the chapels and then the parish churches were erected at the behest of the ruling authority and were systematically arranged according to pre-existing land divisions, in a top-down manner. The chapter explores Clouston's theories on the ursland system and parish formation.

Keywords: Clouston; ecclesiastical parishes; Orkney; ursland system



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