Digital Humanities is transforming the practice of arts-based or arts-linked research, and the University of Glasgow has one of the strongest and longest-established communities of scholars in this area. Our Digital Humanities network, supported by ArtsLab, offers a forum for sharing expertise and building connections both within and beyond the University's College of Arts. Lorna Hughes & Marc Alexander
Scotland’s landscape is rich in place-names incorporating names of saints (hagio-toponyms), mostly of medieval origin. These names, several thousands of them, span Scotland’s historical linguistic range, including names in Northern British (Ecclesmachan), Gaelic (Kilmacolm, Tobermory), Norse (Barra) and Scots (St Quivox, Ladykirk). Many are the names of medieval parishes, but more are the names of chapel sites, wells, stones, and other landscape features associated with saints (e.g. St Baldred’s Boat). Sometimes it is obvious that there’s a saint in the name, as in St Andrews, but language changes and spelling mutations over time disguise this fact in others, like Exmagirdle or Chipperdingan. Because place-names ‘fossilise’ saints’ names, they are often the earliest evidence we have of saints’ cults in Scotland and, consequently, the earliest information we have about religious activity in a region.
The commemoration of saints in Scottish place-names provide a window on a diverse array of aspects of the past, from the distribution of saints’ cults themselves, through linguistic ebb and flow, to political or regional affiliations and identities. These names thus constitute a major aspect of Scotland’s medieval past, yet they have not been studied systematically. This study will enact a full survey, subjecting the data to rigorous analysis.