Sharpe, Richard, “King William and the Brecc Bennach in 1211: reliquary or holy banner?”, The Innes Review 66:2 (2015): 163–190.

  • journal article
Citation details
“King William and the Brecc Bennach in 1211: reliquary or holy banner?”
Abstract (cited)
In his Rhind Lectures of 1879 Joseph Anderson argued for identifying the Monymusk Reliquary, now in the National Museum of Scotland, with the Brecc Bennach, something whose custody was granted to Arbroath abbey by King William in 1211. In 2001 David H. Caldwell called this into question with good reason. Part of the argument relied on different interpretations of the word uexillum, ‘banner’, taken for a portable shrine by William Reeves and for a reliquary used as battle-standard by Anderson. It is argued here that none of this is relevant to the question. The Brecc Bennach is called a banner only as a guess at its long-forgotten nature in two late deeds. The word brecc, however, is used in the name of an extant reliquary, Brecc Máedóc, and Anderson was correct to think this provided a clue to the real nature of the Brecc Bennach. It was almost certainly a small portable reliquary, of unknown provenance but associated with St Columba. The king granted custody to the monks of Arbroath at a time when he was facing a rebellion in Ross, posing intriguing questions about his intentions towards this old Gaelic object of veneration.
(source: Publisher)
Subjects and topics
medieval Scotland 13th century
Lexical itemSingle words, morphemes or phrases.
Irish Brecc Máedóc
History, society and culture
Colum CilleColum Cille
(fl. 6th century)
founder and abbot of Iona, Kells (Cenandas) and Derry (Daire).
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William ReevesReeves (William)
Irish antiquarian scholar; bishop of the Anglican see of Down, Connor and Dromore; keeper of the Armagh Public Library
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William the LionWilliam the Lion
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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Brecc Bennach Monymusk Reliquary Brecc Máedóc house-shaped shrine King William (1143–1214) Arbroath abbey Forglen Joseph Anderson (1832–1916) William Reeves (1815–1892) David Caldwell
Dennis Groenewegen
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April 2016, last updated: July 2021