For almost three hundred years, when Catholicism was illegal in Scotland, southern Germany was host to communities of Scottish Benedictine monks. From the Reformation onwards Scots went to monasteries run by their own countrymen in Bavaria, Franconia and Thuringia in order to take up life in a religious order.
Throughout their stay in the lands of the Holy Roman Emperor the concern of these Scots Benedictines was to support and engage in the missionary activities of the Catholic Church in Scotland. Almost inevitably, however, they became involved in German political life in part through being active participants in their hosts’ counter-Reformation.
They became witnesses to and minor participants in a number of major cataclysmic events including the Thirty Years’ War, the War of Austrian Succession, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars all of which threatened their continued existence. However, their survival and prosperity came to depend on the strong networks of support developed by Scots at home and in continental Europe.
From the late seventeenth through to the nineteenth century the monasteries were able to engage energetically in the provision of education not only for their fellow Scots but for their German hosts. Efforts in this regard led to their making significant contributions to the wider European Enlightenment movement – a fact that has long been known in Germany although almost unrecognised elsewhere.
A Saltire in the German Lands is an attempt to bring their achievements to the wider audience they deserve.