Crìosd, Christ

It would seem to go without saying that, in some sense, all Christian churches are dedicated to Christ. It is perhaps because of this implicit dedication that Christ, as a name incorporated in a church’s name, is relatively uncommon. While Christchurch Canterbury was founded with some version of this name as early as the 6th century (see Bede HE i.33; Colgrave and Mynors 1969, 114n), it is probably to the 11th century that we owe the expansion of the practice of dedicating churches to Christ by name. As noted above, Christchurch, Canterbury may be the ultimate origin of this trend in dedications, at least in some areas (see Hammond 2010, 68-71).

DoSH - dedications to Christ

In Scotland, the phenomenon looks as if it maps in part onto the influence of Scandinavians in the Irish Sea area. The reason for suggesting this is that the pattern encompasses a key dedication in Orkney, where we are told in Orkneyinga Saga (ch.37) that Earl Thorfinn had a “Christ’s Kirk” (Kristkirkja) built at Birsay, where the first episcopal seat of Orkney was, in the 11th century (Antonsson 2007, 90). Earlier that century, the Scandinavian bishopric at Dublin was established by King Sitriuc Silkenbeard, and this too was dedicated to Christ, now Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin (see Crawford 1987, 80-2). That dedication in turn may ultimately reflect the newly invigorated influence of Canterbury in the southern insular world. Given this particular habit among Christian Scandinavians in the insular world, dedications to Christ in other parts influenced by them (Galloway, and the Hebrides in particular) may logically be assigned to this time period. This might also include the two Christ dedications in the Isle of Man, also (Broderick 2006, 194).

The dedications in the Isle of Man, however, prompt some questions. As noted in the discussion under the Trinity, both of these show that, although their Gaelic names incorporated the name of Christ (as Kirk Christ), they were also known as sancte Trinitatis (Broderick 2006, 194). There is the possibility, then, that some of the Christ dedications belong to a different phenomenon, one more associated with lowland Scottish and English church dedications. Matthew Hammond has discussed the adoption of the twin dedication to Christ and the Holy Trinity both by new foundations and older ones in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Scotland (Hammond 2010, 68-71).

It is hard, as a result, to know where to put the lone Uist dedication to Christ, at Teampull Chrìosd. Uncertain traditions place its foundation in the 14th century. More important for this later dating, perhaps, is its proximity to Teampull na Trionaid, and the fact that Teampull Chrìosd is on lands belonging, like Teampull na Trionaid, to Inchaffray Priory in the 14th century (Inchaffray Charters, 136-7; MacDonald 2010, 165). This would tend to suggest that we shouldn’t too readily include Teampull Chrìosd in the pattern of Scandinavian-period dedications of churches to Christ, but rather that it may be a later medieval dedication.