Sometimes the smallest of things are the most satisfying.
There is a charter in the National Records of Scotland (NRS, formerly the National Archives of Scotland) by which Archibald Campbell, Provost of the Collegiate Church of Kilmun, grants a nineteen-year tack of the teinds of Dysart parish in Glenorchy. The exciting feature of this charter, however, is not so much its contents as the pair of seals appended to it.
One of them is the seal of Colin, earl of Argyll (d,1584).
The other seal has a picture of an abbot or bishop on it – an ecclesiastical seal, therefore.
Until last week the NRS catalague described this second seal as that of James Hamilton, bishop of Lismore. This may be one reason why the seal is not better known. But the Faith in Cowal project has recently pointed out to the NRS that the seal is actually that of Archibald Campbell, Provost of the Kirk of Kilmun, and that it is appended directly below his signature. The NRS has corrected its catalogue accordingly.
Now that the seal is correctly identified, we can say that we have also identified the earliest known image of St Munnu, the patron saint of Archibald Campbell’s church at Kilmun. The saint stands on top of the Campbell coat of arms (two gyronnis or crosses of eight and two galleys), which of course refers to the family of Archibald, the provost.
As for the features of the saint himself on this seal, it is hard to discern much, but he is portrayed holding a bachall – the abbot’s staff of office. This refers to the authority of St Munnu the abbot during his own lifetime of course, but we should probaby also read it as alluding to the Provost of Kilmun who uses the image to present himself as the heir to St Munnu’s authority. By joining the image of the saint to the Campbell coat of arms the seal is making an implicit claim about the authority of Archibald Campbell and of his family.
The depiction of the bachall is doubly interesting because we know that such a staff was kept at Inverchapel, close to Kilmun, as a relic of St Munnu. The relic appears (together with its deòradh or hereditary keeper) in a charter of 1497.
By identifying this seal we can add another little piece to the jigsaw of the history of Cowal and the Christian communities here.