570 years ago today …

Thursday 27 August 2020

“Kennedy’s college, dedicated to the Holy Saviour, was founded on the site which it has ever since occupied in North Street on 27 August 1450. On the same memorable day, the Bishop issued his charter of foundation, inaugurated the buildings, and inducted the first Provost to his office.”

St Salvator’s College was founded by James Kennedy (c.1408-1465), Bishop of St Andrews, second Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, and grandson of King Robert III, on 27 August 1450. James Kennedy entered the University of St Andrews about 1426 and took his master’s degree in 1429. He rose to become “an important figure as ecclesiastical statesman, diplomat, and royal adviser in the reign of James II and the minority of his son” (Norman Macdougall in ODNB).

Base of tomb of Bishop Kennedy in St Salvator’s Chapel showing the vault in which his casket remains to this day.
Display in MUSA (now the Wardlaw Museum) before refurbishment, showing cast of skull of Kennedy and reconstruction of his face.

The creation of a properly organised and adequately endowed residential college of Theology and Arts represented Kennedy’s considered attempts at reform of the University. Eventually known as the “Old College” or “Auld College”, since it was the first founded in the University, St Salvator’s survived until 1747 when it was united with St Leonard’s College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard. The title ‘St Salvator’s’ now only properly relates to the hall of residence and the chapel with the quadrangle which it fronts, all affectionately known by generations of students as ‘Sallies’.

Quadrangle of the United College, showing the original site of the St Salvator’s College buildings. The south range (right) shows the cloister at the rear of the Chapel (founded in 1450) which faces onto North Street. The east range (centre) is the Schools of the United College where lecture rooms and staff offices are located. This was built in 1831 and extended in 1904-06. The north range (left) houses the Upper and Lower College Halls and was begun in 1845.
View of quad from East showing the boundary walls along the west, and the entrance to the North lawn. The old College Hall that formed the boundary onto Butts Wynd was demolished as part of the 19th century renovations.
Notarial instrument granting two parcels of land on the north side of North Street adjacent to the common lane to Henry Dryden, 1429 (UYSS110/R/3)

In preparation for the foundation, the lands with which the college was to be endowed and on which its buildings were to be erected were slowly gathered together, notably by Henry de Driden, once of Holyrood Abbey, vicar of the parish church of Falkirk and doctor of decreets. One of the title deeds dates from as early as 1429 (UYSS110/R/3). Driden and others gave the accumulated parcels of land to Kennedy on 27 August 1450, and on the same day King James II confirmed the Bishop’s holding of the lands on the north side of North Street through an Instrument of sasine (UYSS110/A/1). The witness list to that document is most impressive:

  • Witnesses: John, Bishop of Brechin; Mr Thomas Logie, rector of St Andrews University; William, Prior of St Andrews; Thomas, Abbot of Scone [Perthshire]; Mr John Legat, Archdeacon of St Andrews; Laurence Pyott, Archdeacon of Aberdeen; John Beaton and John Feldie, doctors of decreets; John Campbell of Loudon knight; David Broun Provost of St Andrews; William Bonar and Duncan Lambie citizens of St Andrews; Mr Andrew Young and Mr David Kay bachelors in decreets, Notaries Public; with many others.
    (UYSS110/A/1 and copy in St Salvator’s Cartulary A, UYSS150/1, ff 8r-v).

On the 28th August Kennedy granted all the lands to the new College of St Salvator (UYSS110/R/9).

The original foundation of 1450 provided for thirteen founded persons in honour of Christ and the Twelve Apostles. Six poor clerks or scholars, students of Arts who might also act as choristers of the collegiate church, were joined by four priests, Masters of Arts and students of Theology. Above these, in ascending dignity, were three graduates in Theology: a Bachelor, a Licentiate and a Doctor, the latter to act as Provost and as head of the entire foundation. These three ‘principal persons’ or founded persons were both principal and professors of the university college and provost and canons of a collegiate church in the pre-Reformation period and acted as the college executive body. The chaplains played an integral part in the worship of the collegiate church. The foundation stones of the site and church were laid on 27 August 1450 and the chapel was completed ten years later. The college was endowed with gifts of land, money and rights and accumulated treasures such as liturgical vestments and coverings, service books, jewelled monstrances and crosses, some of which are listed in one of the College cartularies and in the testamentary disposition of Bishop Kennedy.

Commonly known as Bishop Kennedy’s testament, this impressive 1454 document in Latin and Scots lists many personal possessions that he intended to leave to the College UYSS110/B/1
Papal bull of Pope Nicholas V issued in 1451 which confirmed Kennedy’s foundation UYSS110/A/3

Kennedy’s foundation charter made detailed arrangements for the administration of the college and the preservation of good order and discipline. The establishment was confirmed by papal bulls of 1451 and 1458. In 1469 the college obtained a papal bull which gave it authority to examine and promote for degrees on its own authority. The resulting schism with the University was only resolved with the authority of the Chancellor and Provincial Council of the Scottish Church and the influence of King James III. That bull was renounced in 1470 and the authority of the university and the Faculty of Arts reimposed.

The ‘New Foundation’ of the University re-organised the collegiate structure in 1579 and decreed that St Salvator’s would become one of two Colleges of Philosophy or Arts, along with St Leonard’s, with Divinity teaching being focussed solely on St Mary’s College from that date. St Salvator’s was then to be staffed by a Principal and four ordinary professors or regents. Since St Salvator’s College was better endowed than St Leonard’s, it also had two additional teachers. Staff were appointed to teach subjects such as Medicine, Rhetoric, Laws and Mathematics, with teaching in Humanity (Latin) and Greek added later. However, revenues were increasingly unable to sustain the founded members and keep the buildings of both colleges habitable and, since the two colleges performed identical work, they were merged by Act of 1747 in the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard in the University of St Andrews.

St Salvator’s Chapel as depicted by John Oliphant, c 1767 ms38800

The notable collegiate church and the tower are part of Kennedy’s original design, although the tower did not have a spire until about 1530. This was destroyed by fire, along with other parts of the college, during the great siege of St Andrews Castle in 1547 when the college tower housed guns used to reduce the castle. The tower was rebuilt at the same time as repairs were made to the re-captured castle.

After 1560 the college chapel fell into disuse by the community and became the meeting place of the Commissary Court of St Andrews from 1563. It came back into use for worship in 1761 as the home of the Parish of St Leonard. Behind the church was a cloister court within other courts. Many of the original college buildings were extended and rebuilt over the years, e.g. between 1683 and 1690 when Provost Skene oversaw repairs to the Common School and Great Hall on Butts Wynd, demolished in 1846. The North and West wings were rebuilt new in 1754-7 after the decision was taken to locate the newly United College on the site of the old St Salvator’s College.

The 500th anniversary of the foundation of the College was commemorated in 1950 with a special graduation ceremony, service, publications and royal visit from the then Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth in procession outside St Salvator’s during the 500th anniversary celebrations, 1950.

Today we wish St Salvator’s a very happy 570th birthday!

-Rachel Hart
Senior Archivist

1 thoughts on "570 years ago today …"

  • C L Couch
    C L Couch
    Friday 28 August 2020, 7.31pm

    Happy Birthday! If I may say, nothing like ventures in faith and learning!


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