[From Manx Quarterly #7 1909]

Historical Account of the Parish of German.


St. Patrick.

St. Patrick, A.D. 387-460, was a native of Roman Britain: that is to say, his period was before the Roman garrisons were withdrawn. Thus, he introduced the Christian Faith into Ireland while as yet the Roman Population of Britain, of the Primitive Christian Faith, and of a high civilisation, were untouched by the subversive tide of Saxon invasion.

Before his mission to Ireland, Patrick had visited St. German, Bishop of Auxerre, and St. Martin, Bishop of Tours; and had been himself ordained a bishop. It is significant to find in later times a church of St. German, on Peel Islet, as the Cathedral Church of Mann; and a church of St. Martin, at Whithorn, as the Cathedral Church of Galloway.

What Britain was in Roman times can only be realised by seeing Caerwent as it survives to-day; and the Roman remains at York, Chester, and the various other sites brought to light by recent excavations. In the " Life of Patrick," written in 1183 by Jocelin, who in 1187 was Abbot of Rushen, the evident intention is to make it clear that the Christian Faith came not only to Ireland, but also to the Isle of Mann, in the Roman period, viz., prior to the Saxon time. In the " Tripartite Life of St. Patrick," is it said that the people of Mann had received the Christian Faith even before Patrick's time. And St. Ninian, Bishop at Whithorn; who died in 432, may well be supposed to have had communication with the Island, visible from Whithorn across only 15 miles of sea. Indeed, long before Ninian's time, there must have been intercourse between Mann and the important Roman city of Chester. For it is incredible that during 200 years of Christian life in Britain, viz., in the 3rd and 4th centuries, no such thing as missions existed. We are not to suppose that, because documents and buildings have perished in successive tides of invasion, life was a blank in long centuries of peace and prosperity!

St. Columba

From St. Patrick, at the beginning of the 5th century, we come to St. Columba at the end of the 6th century. He was an Irish nobleman of Donegal: from which we see that, in the 60 years between the death of Patrick and the birth of Columba, even the extreme West of Ireland had become a Christian country. To realise this better, one has only to see the Irish MSS. in the libraries of Dublin, and the treasures of Irish Christian Art in the Dublin museums.

Columba passed over to the Isles; founded the monastic community of Iona ; and sent missions far and wide: those of his successors extending over Scotland, and southwards into Saxon Northumbria. His influence during his lifetime was felt over Ireland. The dedication of Manx churches in several instances to Iona saints makes it probable that Iona missions came to Mann.

Columba died in 597, the identical year in which St. Augustine arrived in Kent to christianize the Saxons, who for a century and a half had subverted both the christianity and the civilisation of Roman Britain. And meanwhile, during the Saxon period, the disciples and successors of Patrick — whose names survive in the almost bewildering list of Irish saints; and Columba and his companions — of whom there is also a large list — had developed in Ireland, in the Hebrides, in Scotland, and in Mann, what is usually known as the the Celtic Church!

The Celtic Church.

In the Celtic Church the religious centres were monasteries; and the highest ecclesiastical persons, the abbots: the bishops having no dioceses till many centuries later, when Catholic usage came into the West after the Norman Conquest.

The " monastery " was not then one vast edifice; but merely a cluster of dwellings and small churches: in effect it was a, mission station, a contre from which the religious went forth, and to which students gathered. The monastery implied a grant of land. In course of time there grew up cells or local churches of the clans. That the Celtic religious centres were defenceless clusters of dwellings and churches-e.g., Iona, Derry, Clonmacaoise, Kells, Glendalough, and incidentally we may add St. Patrick's Isle at Peel — is evident from the fact that even the great monastery of Derry was not enclosed till the 12th century (1162).

The Celtic Church in Mann.

During the 5th and 6th centuries, when St. Patrick and St. Columba flourished, or at least during the two subsequent centuries after St. Columba's death, there were probably several of these monastic communities in Mann-though in each case very small stations, compared with Iona and the great communities of Ireland. St. Patrick's Isle was probably the most important. The others seem to have been Rushen Abbey-at that time St. Leoc's, St. Lua's, or Malew ; Maughold ; Jurby ; Braddan ; and Marown. In short, wherever there exists a considerable tract of ancient Church-land, originally the gift of the local clan, we may infer that there was a monastic settlement.

To this period belong some of the older crosses, including St. Patrick's Char, in Marown ; and the cells of keills, which were seemingly the inevitable outcome of a tendency to decentralize, under the more settled conditions when the clans became Christian. The excavation work of the Trustees of Ancient Monuments now in progress shows that these keills had a stone built altar at the east end, and around them a graveyard, which was, no doubt, the clan burial-place. That they continued in use till a much later time, viz., in the Scandinavian period, is shown bv the runic inscriptions discovered from time to time on various keill sites; that they were in existence before the Scandinavian period is shown by the purely Celtic character of some of the surviving crosses.

But the most definite evidence, as bearing on St. Patrick's Isle at Peel, is the name " Inis Patrick," by which it was already known when the Vikings made their first descent on Mann in the year 798!

The Norse Vikings.

The first recorded appearance of Vikings on the coast of Ireland was in 795; their first attack on Mann, in 798 — when they " burned Inis Patrick, broke the shrine of Dachonna, and took the spoils of the sea between Erinn and Alba."

It may be taken as certain that a church of St. Patrick existed on Peel Islet in 798; as also a religious community ; and that meant probably a cluster of dwellings and several churches. The existing ruin of St. Patrick's is of much later date; and the Round Tower — viz., the lower and older part of it — even still later. Round Towers are first mentioned in 960 and 965. The majority of them belong to the 11th and 12th centuries; one, at Annadown, to 1238: consequently, having regard to the doorway arch of Peel Round Tower, its date can hardly be earlier than 1100: the ruined church of St. Patrick, not very much earlier.

To realize the true lapse of time, one must reflect that about A.D. 850 the Norsemen began to make permanent settlements in Ireland, in the Isles, and in Mann but this was quite 200 years before Godred Crovan's time. During these 200 years took place a fusion of race. The Norsemen adopted the religion and assimilated the civilisation and art of the Christian Celts. The Norsemen became steadily predominant: the prominent people were all Norsemen. And there cannot be any reasonable doubt that by Godred Crovan's time, the population of Ulster at least, on the Irish mainland, and of the Isles, and of Mann, was in effect wholly Scandinavian.

The Christian Norsemen.

It is most important to recognise that the O'Loughlins and O'Neills, Kings of Ulster, were Scandinavian. Tullaghoge in Tyrone, the Place of Inauguration of the O'Loughlins and O'Neills, and the Rock of Donne in Donegal, the Place of Inaugu-ration of the O'Donnells, have their counterpart in Tynwald Hill in Mann. The townland system of Ulster has its counterpart in the Manx treen system. The claim of Irish bishops to one-third of the tithe has its counterpart in the like claim established by Bishop Reginald in Mann about 1170. The dynasty of Godred Crovan, Kings of Mann and the Isles, from 1075 to 1265, came in by conquest not of the Celtic, but of the already Scandinavian Manx.

The civil institutions of the Scandinavians of Ulster have perished, — surviving to some degree only till the O'Neills were crushed in the wars of Queen Elizabeth's reign; but in Mann, the Scandinavian institutions have survived with wonderfully little essential alteration. It was otherwise in respect of things ecclesiastical: for under the dynasty of Godred Crovan, — especially in the reign of his son Olaf, 1114-1154, Mann was brought within the sphere of Catholic usage, — which meant a diocese with a diocesan bishop; parishes, with parish clergy; and incidentally a cathedral church !

The Diocese of Sodor and Mann. Catholicism as such was the creation of Pope Hildebrand (Gregory VII.), — the contemporary of William the Conqueror, and of Godred Crovan. In the next generation his influence reached Mann through (1) the catholicization of Scotland, and (2) the arrival of the foreign Monastic Orders.

David I. of Scotland divided Scotland into dioceses with diocesan bishops; and introduced the Monastic Orders, the Cistercians, and so on, endowing them with the lands of the Old Celtic Church. Olaf of Mann, the contemporary of David of Scotland, made his kingdom of Mann and the Isles a diocese; and introduced Cistercians of Furness, giving them the old Celtic monastery of St. Leoc and its lands, viz., Rushen Abbey and the abbey-lands of Malew. At the same time the newly-created bishopric was probably endowed with the lands of other small Celtic monasteries, viz., those lands that form the Bishop's Barony — in Braddan, Marown, and Jurby. In short, the Old Celtic Church was reformed — not out of existence so much as brought into new form, and catholically reconstituted.

It is not known when the abbey-lands of German were given to the Cistercians; but probably at the end of the 12th century.

It may be taken as certain that the German abbey-land was the patrimony of the old Celtic monastery on St. Patrick's Isle; and that the Bishop's Barony in German and Patrick parishes are the part given to the Bishop at the time of reorganization.

St. German.

Our first documentary record of a Church of " St. German " on Peel islet occurs in 1183, in the reign of Godred. In that year Jocelin wrote his " Life of Patrick" ; and he makes the Apostle of Ireland to be also the Apostle of Man; and "German, a disciple of Patrick," the first Manx Bishop. Whatever Jocelin's authority may have been for this statement, he was at least dealing with things then actually existing on Peel islet, viz., accounting for not only the Church with-Round Tower — the same St. Patrick's which survives in ruin to-day; but also another then existing church, which he supposed to be dedicated to " St. German."

It is well-known that writers like Jocelin, clear as to the Saints of the Roman Calendar, but vague as to Celtic Saints, did often identify unknown Celtic Saints with well-known Catholic Saints of similar names. Thus St. Lua or Leoc (of Malew) was taken to be St. Lupus (of Troyes). The author of " Manx Names " suggests that the German of Peel islet was Cooman, whose name survives in so many Irish dedications, including that of Kil-Coeman in Islay; his usual designation in Irish martyrologies "Ma-chow-og." If this suggestion of a scholar, recognised for accurate research and severe reserve in conjecture, be accepted — then it is possible that the " shrine of Dachonna " broken by Vikings in 798 was that of Ma-chom-og, or Machoma ; and that Jocelin saw in " Coeman " a Celtic form of German.

As to the site of " St. German's" or " St. Cowman's," it was that now occupied by the crypt under the chancel of St. German's Cathedral. To build thus over the more ancient church was the actual usage. And nothing can explain such a site being chosen for the cathedral, except the sanctity of the spot; and the wish to perpetuate it, by embracing the old within the larger shrine of the new. Moreover, when Jocelin wrote, a new Church of " St. German" was probably in contemplation at least, if not actually begun, under the auspices of King Godred. Godred died on the islet just four years later; and the present chancel of St. German's was built within a very short time after his death.

The Parish of Kirk German.

Kirk or Kyrke is, of course, Norse. By the time of Godred Crovan, and Olaf, if not already before that period, the more important Celtic cells or " keills," viz., the churches of the local clans, had come to be called " kyrke." The less important, viz., the majority in number, seem never to have been called " kyrke" ; from which we infer that by the 12th century, if not indeed earlier, they were falling into disuse.

Thus when the parochial system was introduced in the 12th century, nearly all the "kyrkes" were made the parish churches. We know of four that did not become parish churches; and with the complete organization of the parishes, these four, and possibly others, lapsed. into disuse.

Godred, son of Olaf, ordered that the churches should have glebes, in measure ' at the least 50 paces outward in every direction from the cemetery wall: the ancient glebe around Lonan Old Church exactly corresponding to this description, and doubtless dating from this enactment.

A document of 1215, in the time of Godred's successor, mentions " Kyrke Marown" as having defined boundaries, and a Rector named Brice, with rights that could not be set aside as long as he held the rectory.

In connection with the forming of parishes, it is a point of much interest that the two churches then existing on Peel islet — St. Patrick's and St. German's (or Cowman's) — were made the parish churches respectively of Kirk Patrick parish, on the mainland, south from the islet, and of Kirk German, on the main-land, northward from the islet. Also of these two parishes the Bishop was the Rector. The Bishop was also Rector of Braddan and Jurby. In the year 1215 Brice was Rector of Marown ; but it is significant to note that in four out of five of the parishes in which the Bishop holds barony lands, — viz., the land of the old Celtic monasteries, which in the new order of Catholic usage were devoted to the endowment of the bishopric — the Bishop still holds the rectory of the parish.

Why "St. German's" was Created the Cathderal.

The question has often been asked, why St. Patrick's Church, with its Round Tower, the more important edifice, and dedicated to the more important Saint, was not created the Cathedral? Why was it St. German's (or Cowman's)?

The answer is that the patrimony lands attached to St. German's seem to have been much more extensive and valuable than those of St. Patrick; consequently, it was because of the endowment.

The ancient church land in Kirk Patrick — not counting 816 acres belonging to the Irish monasteries of Bangor and Sabal — amounts to only 260 acres of Bishop's Barony, and 210 acres of Particles; but that of Kirk German, viz., on the main-land immediate to St. Patrick's Isle, amounts to 2,200 acres of abbey-land, 220 of Bishop's Barony, and 500 of Particles.

Like the Norman conquerors of England, the Scandinavians of Mann-of the same race were a race that recognised clearly the two exclusive titles of Law and the Sword. They won land by the sword, and held it with a never-to-be-relaxed grasp ; and they dealt with all titles with rigid regard to law. In recognising Religion and the Church, they did not grant gifts: they only conceded and surrendered to Religion such land as it held by time immemorial claim.

Thus the Scandinavian Kings of Mann in the 12th century, viz., Olaf, Godred, and their successors, in establishing the Mans Church on a new and Catholic basis, constituting the kingdom a diocese and endowing the Bishopric, organizing parishes with parish churches, and finally erecting a cathedral, did what was done in Scotland. They dealt with the existing land endowments of the Old Celtic Church — allocating parts to the Bishop, and — as was the custom of that age and movement — to the newly-introduced Catholic Order of Cistercian Monks.

Why St. German's (or Coeman's) was made the Cathedral Church was clearly because the patrimony land attached to the old church of that name of Peel islet amounted to nearly 3,000 acres, whereas that attached to St. Patrick's Church amounted to less than 500 acres. The Bishop was made Rector of both churches, and endowed with portions of the lands of both. That 2,200 acres were allocated to Rushen Abbey points to an original intention with regard to the new cathedral, which is visible in the character of the chancel.

St. German's Cathedral.

The chancel of St. German's, which is its earliest part, is essentially a Cistercian building in treatment and feeling; and, in respect of style and mouldings, is so similar to the chancels at the Cistercian Abbies of Inch and of Grey in County Down, as to make it certain that the three have a common origin.

John De Courcy, Lord of Down, married Aufrica, daughter of Godred of Mann. In 1181 he founded Inch; and in 1193, Aufrica founded Grey. Moreover, it was in Inch Abbey that Jocelin in 1183 wrote his "Life of Patrick"; himself in 1187 promoted to the Abbacy of Rushen. ' It is indeed probable that Jocelin was the actual architect of all three chancels; and that the original intention at St. German's was a Cistercian Abbey, with the 2,200 acres of abbey-land as endowment.

The Chronicon Mannioe, written two generations later, says that Symon, Bishop of Mann and the Isles from 1228-1237, was buried in St. German's, "which he himself had begun to edify." Symon had been Abbot of Iona. The tower and transepts of St. German's betray a remarkable general resemblance to the corresponding parts of Iona Cathedral-a church also attributed to Symon as builder-and doubtless this part of St. German's is his work. That he did not complete- his scheme is verified by the fact that the nave is evidently of somewhat later date.

The ruined " Bishop's Palace " north of St. German's suggests also that the arrangement was adopted from Iona, and adjusted to the narrower limits of space on the ledge of the islet. Indeed, it may be taken as probable that Symon was the builder of the Cathedral as such; and that this Bishop, who was a Benedictine, come into posseesion of the incomplete Cistercian building, and constituted it a Cathedral, viz., his own Episcopal Church.

The present crypt of St. German's was inserted at a later date, possibly by Bishop Richard, the first who was a Baron or Lord Bishop, 1250 to 1275: its purpose possibly even at that period, the same to which it was devoted in later times, viz., as the ecclesiastical prison of the Bishop. At any rate, Bishop Richard was the first to receive the rights of imprisoning and gibbeting on his lands.

It is also interesting to note that the ancient Vicar's Glebe as also the Parish Clerk's Glebe of German, are parts of the Bishop's Barony in Kirk German. There are no traces of the Staff-land of German But the " Staff-land of St. Patrick," mentioned 1505, is evidently Glenaspet, viz., the Bishop's Barony in Kirk Patrick. The present glebe of Kirk Patrick is a later purchase; but, even there, an old glebe seems to have existed, like that of German, a fraction of the Bishop's estate.

The Cathedral in its Palmy Days.

On the death of Bishop Symon, 1247, Laurence, Archdeacon of Mann, was elected Bishop by "the Chapter of Mann." Such elections are also recorded a century later; but from this first election, at this particular date, it may be inferred that Symon established a Chapter; and that the " Bishop's Palace " was the Cathedral Close.

By a statute of Bishop Mark in 1291, the dress of the clergy was regulated; and order made that inhibited garments worn by any of the clergy should be applied to the Fabric Fund of St. German's.

In 1348, William Russel, by nationality Manx, and Abbot of Rushen, was elected Bishop "by the clergy of the Isle of Mann, in the Cathedral Church of St. German in Mann, in Holm" : Holm, in Norse an islet, having become the name of St. Patrick's Isle.

In 1374, "in the Cathedral Church of Sdt. German in Mann, John Donkan, a Manxman, was elected Bishop by the clergy of Mann" ; and in the third year of his consecration he was " solemnly installed in his said Cathedral Church, very great offerings being received on the said day in his first pontifical Mass."

To this period belong those decorated windows inserted in the transepts; and doubtless the south aisle of the nave. There are no documents to indicate in whose time the aisle was destroyed, and its arcade built up, with small perpendicular windows inserted; but this, evidently in the 15th century, if not indeed as late as the Reformation period

St. Peter's Church.

The inconvenience of the parish churches of Kirk Patrick and Kirk German being on Peel islet made it a matter of course that eventually there would be a church or churches on the mainland: and so there came St. Peter's Church at Peel Market-place; and outside it the "Parish Cross," the place of the " Market," and of the "Parish Fair" — one church common to the two parishes.

The great curtain wall of Peel Castle is understood to have been built by Thomas Stanley, first Earl of Derby, 1460 to 1505: and to conjecturally asaign to that period the exclusion of parishioners from access to the churches on the islet, and the necessity of a new church, might be a natural thought. But it is probable that St. Peter's was already in existence before the time of the first Earl of Derby; and that the church-going parishioners were in no way inconvenienced by the building of the Castle wall; incidentally also, that St. German's had already ceased to be a de facto parish church, and remained in use only as the cathedral.

The frequent mention of the "Parish Cross," viz., after the actual cross, which once stood at the Marketplace outside the church, had probably disappeared, points to the 14th century as the most probable period of the erection of St. Peter's.

Reference to St. Peter's is probably implied in a record of 1408, which mentions " Morice, Vicar of Hollm," as one of the parochial clergy at Sir John Stanley's first Tynwald ; and in another record of 1429, in connection with " Gubon Clearke, Commissary to Richard Pulley, Bishop of Sodor, in his visitation, holden at Hallandtowne (Holm-town or Peel)."

There is — or was, till within recent years — a piscina in the chancel of St. Peter's, from which fact it may be inferred that the church is at least of a pre-Reformation date. Unfortunately, alterations of the building at various successive periods have made identification of any part or parts of the original building almost hopeless.

St. Peter's was the common parish church of Kirk Patrick and Kirk German down to 1713, with one vicar for the two parishes. In 1713 a now parish church was provided for Kirk Patrick, viz., a mile or so south of the town; and from that date St. Peter's remained the parish church of Kirk German alone — continuing so till 1884 as regards actual use; and even as regards legal status till 1893.

The Cathedral in Decay.

The decay of St. German's may be said to date from before the Reformation, via., not only from the enclosing of the islet by the great wall which made St. Patrick's Isle a fortress, but also from the Stanley policy with regard to the Church in the 15th century.

After the Reformation the decay was inevitable, the bishops of the 16th century being to a considerable degree absentees from the diocese. The bishops continued to be installed in St. German's; but it is doubtful if the edifice was kept in repair. Bishop Merick (1577-99) continually complains of the poverty of his state as Bishop of Mann; and in the troubles of the 17th century the condition of things was even worse.

Bishop Phillips (died 1633) and Bishop Rutter (died 1663) were both buried in St. German's. During the 18th century there are occasional instances of persons buried in St. German's for reasons of sentiment and veneration of the spot. By the 19th century it had become a place of burial " for strangers " and castaways of shipwreck.

Bishop Wilson (1698-1755) was installed in St. German's; but in 1713 he consented to part of the lead of the roof being sold to defray the cost of the new Church of Kirk Patrick. The last installation in St. German's was that of Bishop Hildesley in 1755: at that time the only part still roofed over being the chancel; and this ulimately destroyed by a storm.

St. German's of To-Day.

The new St. German's, built by Bishop Rawley Hill, was consecrated in 1884, and opened by Archbishop Thompson, of York. It became the parish church of Kirk German by a resolution of the parish vestry in 1894. In the brief quarter of a century of its existence it has had a chequered history, viz., in having the nave wrecked in the terrible gale of 1903; and more recently in having the tower endangered through subsidence of the foundations, and the spire perforce requiring to be taken down.



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