The college at Scalan

Two priceless Catholic collections originally housed in the Blairs Seminary outside of Aberdeen, Scotland, are being returned to the area after 54 years to be housed this time at the University of Aberdeen. This is a big event given the dark history of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. In fact, the archives cover some of the most turbulent centuries in the history of the Catholic Church.

The collection includes manuscripts, books and letters from the archives of the Catholic church and letters from Mary, Queen of Scots, are of “national and international significance”. Mary was a Catholic and refused to renounce her Catholic faith. Catholicism was outlawed following the Scottish Reformation in 1560.

Many of the artifacts were, at one time hidden at the Catholic Church’s “secret” seminary in Glenlivet on Speyside near Aberdeen (Glenlivet is known today as home to one of the famous whiskey distilleries-Scotch). The seminary was a refuge for the training of young students for the Catholic priesthood during the Jacobite rebellion. The Catholic church was always stronger in the north and Scalan College survived as a major source of Catholic teaching until the end of the 18th century.

The main archive includes documentation for Aberdeen and Moray dating back to the 12th century. The university will also become custodian of the Blairs Library collectionof 27,000 books and pamphlets dating from 1801and several of the documents are the only surviving copies.

Archbishop Mario Conti, president of the Heritage Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said, “At a time when the future location of the pre-restoration archival material belonging to the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust was under consideration, the offer from Aberdeen University to accept it on loan and display it alongside other appropriate collections was carefully considered and prudently accepted.

“The intention of the trustees was to preserve the material in its integrity and make it available to scholars, students and post-graduate researchers in conditions which ensured both its security and its expert care.”

He added: “The whole Catholic community is indebted to Aberdeen University, itself originally a foundation of the church, for this fruitful outcome.”

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1 Comment on Priceless Catholic church collections to be returned to north-east Scotland after more than 50 years

  1. Michael T R B Turnbull says:

    This is a one sided statement. Historians, researchers and archivists have expressed their strong opposition to this Dispersal plan which was not conceived with the interests of users. This material was brought down by lay and clerical historians in 1958 with the approval of the Scottish Bishops to be close to the National Library of Scotland and the National Records of of Scotland. An Open Letter signed by 100+ academics and an Online Petition signed by 750 historians has been sent to the Scottish Bishops. If the plan goes ahead it will fragment the Collection and greatly diminish the writing of Scottish History.

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