[From Ellan Vannin, 1895]




THE Runic remains are chiefly stone monuments, with the symbol of the Cross, set up by one friend in memory of someone else, and inscribed with "runes," or letters of the Runic alphabet, whose twenty-four letters served the literature of Scandinavia of old. They are cut in deep, straight lines, long and short, on the edges of the stones. The Runic language was that of Scandinavia, and included the peoples of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It was closely related to the Gothic language. Gibbon states, in his Decline and Fall, that the oldest runic inscriptions are supposed to belong to the third century, and that the first ancient writer who mentions the runic crosses lived towards the end of the sixth century. In order of time, the runic remains follow the early Christian of the Treen Chapels, and belong to the Norwegian era, which begins about the ninth century. The Encylopaedia Britannica states that about the tenth and eleventh centuries the Runic letters gave place to the Roman. The monuments are found, perhaps, more in the north of the Island than in the south. They relate to persons of Norse descent and name. There is no expression of Christian sentiment in what they bear, unless it be in one of which my friend, Mr. Kneale, of Victoria Street, Douglas, informs me, and which has the words "for his soul." They are not now in their original sites; some are built into other structures, some carefully placed in church yards. Their date is supposed to be about the tenth century.

The Runic interval seems to have been a passing phase rather than a substantial change in the religious life of the Island. It points to Norwegian supremacy. Iceland shares in the same kind of memorial, basaltic columns bearing the runic inscriptions. On the lines of more general history, it suggests the great movement of the northern nations of Europe to take possession of the fairer lands of the sunny south. The date when the movement reached England, Ireland, and Man, has been stated by Professor Munch to be from 800 to 850. The Manx kingdom was then "Man and the Isles." In England, the Norsemen seized Cumberland and Strathclyde, the western half of Britain from the latitude of Edinburgh to that of York, and from the northern boundary of Wales to the Clyde. In 882, on the eastern coast, the Danes had subdued Northumberland, and had made York their capital. In Ireland, the Norwegians had formed a kingdom in Dublin, taking possession also of Waterford and Limerick. A little earlier the Norwegians had conquered Shetland, the Orkneys, and the Sudreys, the last including the western islands of Scotland and Man. These western islands, as south of Norway, received the name "Sodorenses," a term at last joined to "Man." It suggests the possible origin of the title, "Sodor and Man," given to the Manx diocese, in which case the ancient "Sodor" would be "the Isles," now included in "Argyle and the Isles," and would, as the more important part, naturally come first; thus, "Sodor and Man." The great northern movement which thus reached our little Island was, in its general features, a repetition of the more ancient movement of Goth, Vandal, and Scythian, before whom the Roman empire fell; and of that yet earlier movement from the northern regions down to India, the Dravidian invasion sweeping before it the aborigines of India, to be driven southward in its turn by the Aryans from the north-west. So Gibbon, already referred to, writes that "the men of Scandinavia had been concealed by a veil of impenetrable darkness" in their northern lands, strangely quiet, though, a little south of them, in an earlier age, on the southern line of the Baltic, Goth, Frank, Vandal, and Lombard had left their country to subvert the imperial power of Rome; at last, however, came the Norsemen from their cold recesses to seize Man and greater countries, Normandy as well, and not resting until they had established their power as far south as the Mediterranean. It is a curious fact that recently, on the coast of Norway, a vessel of the "Viking" class, built of oak, has been found embedded in the soft earth, in good preservation, though supposed to be of the ninth century. An exact copy has been built by the Norwegian Government, and sent as a present to the "World's Fair" of 1893, in Chicago. The measurement is: Over all, 76½ feet; beam, 16¼ feet; hold, 5¾ feet. The bow and stern are higher than amidships. There is no deck; the planks overlap; it is fitted for thirty-two oars, each 17 feet long; and the lines are graceful as those of a modern yacht. Perhaps it was such that once came to Lhen Mooar.

4. Manx Mediaeval Romanism comes within the ages seen but dimly, though its ruins are the most conspicuous. In the dimness may be seen something of its system, its resources, its government, and its relations.

Its date in Manx History, as an organised church, could not be earlier than the mission of Augustine in 597, but must have been much later. Irish Christianity withstood the Papacy until 1172, as already noted, and Manx Christianity has been more closely related to it than to Scotland or England, and would therefore, under the shelter of Ireland, be free from subjection to Rome to a much later date than England, in 664, at the Synod of Whitby. In order of time, Manx Romanism comes after Manx Christianity. The oak had long grown and flourished before the ivy crept along its branches. The date would be long after the time of St. Patrick, which was about the middle of the fifth century. Many of the fallacies of the Papal system in Man, as elsewhere, gather around the grand personality of St. Patrick. The claim that he laid the foundation of the Church in Man falls for want of historic evidence. Probabilities are against the supposition that he was ever Bishop of Man, or was ever within its bounds. The monks of Rushen Abbey never name him in their chronicle, and state that they had no knowledge of any Bishop in Man before the eleventh century. To them the first thousand years of the Christian era in. the Island were a blank in its Church history. In his autobiography, St. Patrick makes no mention of the Island. Born in Dumbarton in 372, the capital of the ancient Strathclyde of British history; taken captive by pirates when he was sixteen years old, and sold into slavery in Ireland; escaping to his British home after ten years of bondage; it was not until some years after his conversion to the Christian faith that he returned to Ireland, and, according to his own account, gave his whole life of Christian labour to Ireland alone. His first landing, we are told in the narrative, was in Ulster, two miles from Sabal, near where now stands Downpatrick. His first sermon there was in a barn, to which was given the name "Sabhal Padrine" (see the volume published by the Religious Tract Society, and edited by the Rev. Dr. Wright), the title meaning the Barn of Patrick. On that site was afterwards erected a memorial church, standing north and south. Of his presence in Man there is no adequate proof or record; none in the writings of Gildas, the monk of the Welsh Bangor, and the historian of the British Church in the sixth century; none in the writings of Bede in the eighth century, though he refers to the Isle of Man none, therefore, in the early ages, for to these two writers are we indebted for the Christian history of Britain and the neighbouring lands. The first published statement that St. Patrick had been in Man was by the monks of Furness Abbey in 1112, six hundred years after he had passed away; the next mention of the idea is in ~ In the dark ages there were published lives of St. Patrick full of fabulous inventions, and these have been repeated from age to age. The saint himself never mentions the Island, or Rome, or the Pope, or any commission from Rome, or any miracle by himself. His writings, composed towards the end of his life, have much of the Gospel spirit, and include his celebrated hymn, which he wrote in ancient Irish, the rest of his writings being in imperfect Latin. Had the alleged wonders of a Manx episcopate been real, they could hardly have been omitted from his review of life. One thing seems clear, that the island had no share of his labours, or even his presence; that his achievements had nothing to do with early Manx Christianity; that his British usefulness had no part in laying the foundations of Romanism; that those foundations were different in outline and plan from those of the early ages, and that the ultimate absorption of the Celtic Churches of Britain and Ireland and Man is no proof that they belonged at first to the organisation of the Romish system.

The system of Manx Romanism appears in its ruins, the Cathedral, Bishop's Court of its time, but not now in ruins, the Abbey at Rushen, the Nunnery, the Friary, the Church of St. Ninian's, and old parish churches whose traditions survive; and, lastly, its early relations beyond its immediate circle in the Baronies beyond the sea. Together, these suggest a comprehensive and imposing ecclesiastical plan. Beyond the Baronial relations were those to the Archbishop of Drontheim, in the Norwegian time; to the Pope of Rome, made its master by the usurping king; to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; to the lord of the isle as, for a time, independent of his authority in their local jurisdictions. The priestly arrogance which thus arose, and refused feudal homage to the Stanley ruler, was quickly put down by a firm hand, those abroad dismissed, those within the island escaping by submission. The discipline and government thus established over the Manx people show Rome's method as a Church. There are words in the Manx language that bear the Papal impress: "Oie innyd" is the special name given to the eve of Ash Wednesday; "Oie'l varry," "the night of Mary," is Christmas Eve. Places sometimes bear a suggestive name, as "Magher y Chairn," the field of the Lord. It does not appear that the priests used the Manx language in public worship. The Canon Law was in full force; the doctrines were those of the Papacy; the discipline was true to the Romish model; the claim was exclusive, as being the only true Church, and with powers in the priesthood which approached the divine; the supremacy over the civil power held in theory, as was natural to a system whose chief feature is that under the Christian name it aims at political supremacy.

The revenue comprehended large resources: tithes and fees from every property and business, and from the chief events in family life, as well as all the offices of religion; extensive properties in land and houses; other rights and claims of a substantial nature also; and this, not only for insular Popery, but also for the outer establishments. Other facts bearing on Manx Romanism must be reserved for the chapters on "Freedom" and "Wealth."


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