This introduction begins with the description of a bell that was installed at the parish church of St Giles, Edinburgh in about 1460. It uses various features of the St Giles bell as entry-points into the historical context of the book’s subject, including towns in Scotland (their populations, their political hierarchy, their economies, their physical layout); the structure of Scottish Church (similarities to and differences from the Church in other parts of Europe); and a brief historiography of religion in Europe generally and Scotland in particular. It then outlines the scope and structure of the book, which is taken from the Latin inscription on the bell’s surface: ‘defunctos plango: vivos voco: fulmina frango’, which translates into ‘I lament the dead, I summon the living, I subdue thunderbolts’.
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