Culdees

The word is of doubtful origin and may be derived from keledei, “friends of God,” or cultores Dei, “worshipers of God.” The name appeared first in the tenth century, and continued in use, particularly at St. Andrews, until the middle of the fourteenth century. It was given to a somewhat enigmatic but highly influential group in the Scottish Church who have sometimes been referred to as the “evangelicals” in the pre-Reformation church. They were in the first instance monks with high ideals and a sense of spiritual values who maintained a good degree of spiritual life in the Scottish Church when it was at a low ebb elsewhere. Their influence enabled the church to survive the troubled period of the Norse invasions. They never owed allegiance to Rome, and maintained a separate and independent existence until the Reformation. About 1100 they abandoned their regular monastic habits and became a college of secular priests. Their resistance of King David's attempts to have them incorporated in the new Augustinian priory that he had founded at St. Andrews in 1144 was an evidence of their strength and independence. At Brechin they fulfilled the function of a cathedral chapter, but their status then was largely secular, and their contribution to the work of the church came from their material wealth as landowners and their capacity for administration.