Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk
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The History of the Royal Burgh of Selkirk

The Coming of the Monks

The Monks.
The Monks of Selkirk Abbey (Enlarge)

The coming of Christianity to Selkirk is lost in the mists of antiquity. Doubtless missionaries from Whithorn or Iona brought the good news of the Gospel to the dwellers in Ettrick Forest, but no record of their work remains.

With the coming of the Monks to Selkirk in 1113 we are definitely on historical ground.

Monasticism in Western Europe was largely the product of the work of St Benidicat of Nursia (c. 480-544). At Sabaco and later at Monte Cassino he evolved the famous "Rule" which gradually superseded all other forms of monastic organisations. The "Rule" was remarkable for its singular common sense and sympathetic insight into human nature, both by its own merits and by the way of Papal encouragement it rapidly spread throughout the West. By this "Rule" the brethren were dedicated to a life in which the central act was the recitation of the Divine Office, after which their time was divided between study and work, the latter being predominantly agricultural in character. Hence, it was to the Benedictine community at Tiron in Picardy that David, Earl of Cumbria, turned when at the beginning of the 12th century he sought to establish a monastic foundation in Ettrick Forest.

On the death of Edgar, King of Scotland (1107) the kingdom was divided by his will between his two brothers, Alexander, who received the northern part, and David, to whom was given the southern, with the title Earl of Cumbria.

A Monk.
A monk from Selkirk Abbey (Enlarge)

David inherited from his Mother (St Margaret of Scotland), a strong devotion to the church, and during his lifetime founded five bishoprics and many monasteries, of which Selkirk was one.

The Selkirk community was founded in 1113, with the settlement of twelve brethren and an abbot from Tiron. The details of the foundation are somewhat conflicting, but it would seem that the name of the first Abbot was Ralph, and that he not long after returned to Picardy to assume the abbacy there.

The monks were at Selkirk Abbatis for about fifteen years and it is questionable if any stone buildings were erected during the period. The church and accommodations would probably have been a mixture of wood, thatch and wattle.

By 1128 the abbey of Selkirk had moved to Kelso 'because the site was not convenient'. The probable reason was that in 1124 David had become King of Scots and he had moved his main residence to Roxburgh and he was advised by John, Bishop of Glasgow to move his first foundation to Kelso

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