[From Diocesan History, 1893]



It was probably not before the beginning of the eleventh century that the Celto-Scandinavian population of Man received Christianity; and even, then, perhaps, their reception of it was, like that of the Icelanders with whom they were closely connected, with the proviso that they might also continue their old worship. The state of mind of these people, in fact, with reference to religion at this period would seem to have been well expressed by the old warrior, who said that he believed neither in idols nor spirits, but in his own force and courage.

They were willing to accept some of the outward ceremonies and festivals of the Church, which were considerately made to resemble what they were accustomed to as much as possible, but further than this they would not go. But perhaps the best proof of the slowness of the conversion of the inhabitants of Man is the fact that it is not till towards the end of the eleventh century that we find the name of a Manx ecclesiastic, the so-called bishop, Roolwer, recorded. It must not, however, be inferred from this title of bishop that he ruled over a see divided into parishes, where the Church held landed property, as such conditions did not obtain in Man till a much later period; but merely that he was an ambulatory bishop, attached to the king's court, while his assistants were probably monks without any fixed abode. But with the accession of Olaf I, in 1103, a more stable condition of affairs, ecclesiastical as well as secular, was probably initiated. For Olaf had been educated at the English court, and had doubtless acquired a knowledge of the English form of government. He would have seen there the feudal system in full operation, also the separation of the civil and ecclesiastical courts which had recently been carried out, the enforced celibacy of the clergy, and the gradually increasing power of the monastic system. And, as we know that he continued his friendly relations with England during the whole of the reign of Henry I, it is probable that, during his long and peaceful reign (1103-1154), he introduced much of the English system both in Church and State. Nor does this connexion with England seem to have been altogether a new departure, as Godred Crouan, when King of Dublin as well as Man, gave canonical obedience to Canterbury, while Olaf seems to have been more especially connected with York. Unfortunately, however, with the exception of the fact that he permitted the Cistercian monks of Furness to found an abbey at Rushen in Man, nothing is known of what he actually did in these respects.

This foundation of the abbey of Rushen, which took place in 1134, was one of the most important events in the history of the medieval Manx Church. It was important because these Cistercians were, as usual in their order, exempted from all episcopal visitation and control, by charter granted by the pope, and so were only subject to his rule and that of the abbots of their own order. These conditions, therefore, practically led to the subjection of the Manx Church to the great English abbey of Furness, and to a great increase of papal influence in its affairs. The new abbey was founded by Eudo, or Ivo, Abbot of Furness, who received lands for that purpose at Rushen and elsewhere in Man from Olaf I, who, at the same time, conferred lands and privileges on the "Churches of the Isles" and in 1142, a grant in frankalmoign (free-alms) of lands in Lancashire was received from Arthur, son of Godred. Thus had the abbey already acquired a very considerable landed property, and, in addition to this it received one-third of the tithe of Man, which, at this time, was said to have been divided into three equal portions, one of which went to the bishop, another to the abbey for the education and relief of the poor, and the third to the parochial clergy.

The first act of Godred II on his accession, in 1154, was to confirm this charter. In 1176, the abbot of another English monastery, that of Rivaulx, acquired through Godred's gift a piece of land at Mirescoge, where "he built a monastery." But the building seems to have been abandoned by these monks, as we learn from the chartulary of Furness, in 1238, that it was not made use of by Rivaulx, but was "afterwards given to the abbey of Furness to build it of the Cistercian order." All this tended to the aggrandizement of Furness, and of its offshoot at Rushen, so that the Cistercians seem to have been by far the most powerful religious body in the island. There was also, probably, in existence at this time the nunnery of St. Bridget, near Douglas, of the date of the foundation of which we have no record; and the abbeys of Bangor and Sabhal in Ireland, of St. Bees in England, and of Whithorn in Scotland, all had lands in Man, though they were of very small extent compared to those of Rushen. In 1186, Pope Urban III received Furness Abbey and its possessions under his protection, and confirmed the liberties granted to it; and, in 1188, Reginald I, who became king in that year, confirmed its charter.

In 1246, King Harald, not content with merely confirming his predecessors' charters, issued an additional one of his own, by which the monks of Furness obtained "all kinds of mines" in Man, "three acres of land" near St. Trinians, and "exemption from all tolls and taxes." Their claim of the right of electing the bishop of the diocese from among their number will be referred to later.

We now approach the question of the foundation of the famous diocese of Sodor and Man. Since the reign of Godred Crouan, the connexion of the Manx Church under its Scandinavian rulers seems to have been with England, and it so continued till, towards the end of Olaf's reign, it was interrupted owing to the anarchy caused by the struggle between Stephen and Matilda. Being thus bereft of his most powerful protector, and being, after 1150, threatened by the powerful David of Scotland, the aged Olaf bethought himself of his neglected suzerain of Norway, and so sent his son Godred in 1151 to do homage to him. That kingdom was, however. practically in a state of civil war, which lasted, with a few tranquil intervals, till 1217. This fact, combined with the death, in 1153, of David, whose successors had enough to do in dealing with revolts at home, and the accession of Henry II to the English throne in 1154, soon led the Manx kings back to their former protector.

But the Norwegian connexion had lasted long enough to produce a remarkable ecclesiastical change, viz., the formation of the diocese of Sodor, including Man, with Nidaros or Drontheim as its metropolitan see, a diocese which long survived the period of Scandinavian rule over Man and its satellites, and whose name remains to the present day. In fixing the formation of the diocese at this time (1154) we are on firm ground, but it is possible that it may have existed at previous intervals, though not, probably, in connexion with Drontheim. The question of the existence of this diocese before 1154 is, however, one which is involved in the greatest obscurity, and all that we can do is to point out what we consider to be the probabilities, leaving our readers to elucidate the problem for themselves. On the very threshold of this inquiry, we are confronted by the fact that the ancient Scandinavian diocese of the kingdom of Man and the western isles of Scotland was called Sodor only, not Sodor and Man. This name of Sodor (Suðr-eyjar), or the South Isles, was given in contradistinction to Nordr (Norðr-eyjar), or the North Isles, i. e. the Orkneys and Shetlands, and it included the Hebrides, all the smaller western isles of Scotland, and Man. It is not known when Man was first united with the rest of Sodor, but perhaps there is something in the tradition that Magnus Barefoot was the author of this change in 1098, though it is quite possible that Man was visited before this date, in common with the other Sudreys, by the same bishop, who would follow the king's court as it moved from place to place. Under Olaf I, who was the first king who bore undisputed rule in the other Sudreys, as well as Man, for any considerable period, such an arrangement probably became a permanent one. For it was at this time that the civil connexion of Man with Dublin and Ireland was definitely severed, and that Man became the head of a purely maritime kingdom, nominally subject to the suzerainty of Norway. This suzerainty became again, in 1152, as we have seen, a real one, and one result of this was the establishment, or, it may be the re-establishment of the spiritual supremacy of Norway. For it was in 1152 that, by bull of Pope Eugenius III, confirmed by Pope Anastasius IV in 1154, the Sudreys were placed under the archiepiscopate of Nidaros (Drontheim), which was created a metropolitan see. Before this date, probably, and before 1098, almost certainly, the bishoprics of the Sudreys and Man were distinct, and Man seems to have been a dependent of Dublin and, through Dublin, of Canterbury. But from 1154 till, at least, the early, part of the fifteenth century, they appear to have continued united, though the political connexion of both Sodor and Man with Norway was severed in 1266, and the connexion of Man with Scotland in 1334.

As proofs of this, it may be mentioned (1) that, in 1349, copies of a letter of Pope Clement VI to William the Sodor bishop-elect, were sent to the Archbishop of Nidaros, to the "noble Robert Steward, styled Seneschal of Scotland, Lord of the Isle of Bute, in the Sodor diocese", and to "our beloved son, the noble John Macdonald, Lord of Isla, in the Sodor diocese"; (2) that Pope Urban V, writing to this same William in 1367, spoke of a nobilis mulieris Mariae de insulis . . . tuae diocesis, who was a daughter of the above-mentioned John, here styled "Lord of the Isles"; (3) that, in 1374, copies of a letter of Pope Gregory XI to John, bishop-elect of Sodor, were sent to "the illustrious King Robert of Scotland" and the Archbishop of Nidaros, as well as to "William King of Man"; (4) that a MS. codex in the Vatican, written about 1400, contains the words Sodorensis iu Noruegia et prouincia Nidrosensis, showing that the connexion of Sodor with Norway still continued. Another point relating to this subject, i.e. the exact application of this title Sodor, which has also been a matter of much controversy, may be briefly discussed here. The title of Sodor seems to have been perpetuated in connexion with Man by the fact, which the recent discovery of a modern transcript of a bull of Pope Gregory IX., dated 1231, places beyond a doubt, that Peel Island was also called Sodor — in the words of the bull, Holme, Sodor vel Pile vocatum, "Holme (Island), called Sodor or Pile." In a charter of Thomas, Earl of Derby, to the Bishop of Sodor, dated 1505, these words are repeated; but this, which, previously to the above-mentioned discovery, was the first mention of Sodor vel Pile or Pele, might have been explained by the argument that, the old diocese having so long ago passed away, the true meaning of Sodor had been forgotten, and that, by way of getting an application for the name, it had been given to this little island of Peel. But this explanation will not now serve, for in 1231 it was a title given in a formal document of the time of Scandinavian rule, and when the Scandinavian language must have been used by at least the ruling class. The true explanation appears to be that Peel Island, being the seat of the cathedral of the diocese of Sodor, took its name from the diocese instead of giving it to it, as is usually the case. For it is not likely that Sodor was the original name of an island to the west, not to the south, of another. Its earliest name seems to have been the Celtic Peel or Pile, meaning "fort," so called, no doubt, from the ancient round tower on it. Then the Norsemen called it Holme (O.N. holmr), their usual name for an island at the mouth of a river. Later still, as we have seen, the ecclesiastical name of Sodor was given to it, and in all formal secular documents, after 1505, relating to it these three names are recited. Having thus accounted for the permanence of the name Sodor, it will be interesting to trace how Man became associated with it. The modern name of the bishopric of Man, "Sodor and Man", seems to have arisen from a mistake of a legal draughtsman in the seventeenth century, who was ignorant that Man was ecclesiastically called Sodor. It would appear that by the latter part of the sixteenth century the terms Sodor and Man had become interchangeable, for in a document of Queen Elizabeth's, dated 1570, mention is made of "the bishopric of the Island of Sodor or Man." In 1609, a grant of the Isle of Man was made to William, Earl of Derby; and, in the document conveying this grant, all the possible titles of the bishopric are recited with a precision which leaves no loophole for error : "The patronage of the bishopric of the said Isle of Man, and the patronage of the bishopric of Sodor, and the patronage of the bishopric of Sodor and Mann." The then bishop, Philips, at once took advantage of this new title, as in the following year he signs himself "Sodor et de Man".

In 1635 Bishop Parr is called "Bishop of the Isle of Man, of Sodor, and of Sodor and Man." No signature of his can be found, but his successors, up to the time of Bishop Levinz, who was appointed in 1684, usually signed themselves "Sodorensis," occasionally "Sodor and Man," but since 1684 the signature has been either "Sodor and Mann" or "Sodor and Man." The full title of the see at the present day is " Bishop of the Isle of Man, of Sodor, of Sodor and Man, and of Sodor of Man," which accentuates the application of the name Sodor to Peel Island. We find, therefore, in summing up our case, that the ancient Scandinavian name of the diocese of the kingdom of Man and the Isles was Sodor; that this name Sodor seems to have been given to Peel Island as being the seat of the cathedral of the diocese, and that, at a later date, when it was forgotten that Man had been called Sodor, both titles were made use of to adorn the dignity of the modern bishopric. Such in brief is the conclusion we have arrived at with reference to this much-disputed question.

In resuming the course of our narrative, we may note that Olaf I died just as this change of metropolitan was initiated, and that he was succeeded by his son Godred. Olaf was evidently in good odour with the monks, who spoke of him as "a pious prince, a great propagator of Christian knowledge, a benefactor to the Church, beloved of both God and man." It is a significant token of the change referred to that the first bishop of the re-constituted diocese was a Norwegian, Reginald, and we are told that to him "the incumbents in Man gave the thirds of the churches that they might thence be free from any episcopal exaction." This was a great step towards the consolidation of the Church in Man, as the bishop, holding property there, would probably become a resident, visiting the other isles occasionally. It should also be observed, that the occurrence of the word "incumbents" shows that there was a regular non-monastic, or secular clergy settled in the isle with fixed incumbencies. From this time till 1203 there is no important event recorded in the history of the diocese; but, in that year, the monastery of Iona, which had fallen into the hands of the Benedictine order, was taken under the protection of the papal authority by the powerful and ambitious Innocent III., for which privilege they had to pay two bezants yearly. This is notable as showing the increased influence of Rome, which was still more clearly demonstrated when, in 1219, King Reginald, in imitation of his over-lord, King John of England, offered his kingdom to the pope, and received it back in fief, subject to a yearly tribute of ten marks; and when, in 1223, he and his dominions were taken "under the protection of the blessed Peter." The earliest action of the pope in his new position as regards Man was to exhort his new vassal to provide lands for houses for the clergy of certain churches in his realm which were without any.

Whether Olaf II, who became king in 1226, approved of these arrangements with the pope, we know not, but it seems probable that he made no protest, as, from this period, there is a distinct increase of papal assumption of authority in the affairs of the Sodor diocese. Of this we have an early proof from a bull issued by Pope Gregory IX, in 1231, to Bishop Simon, in which he decreed that all the possessions of the Church of Sodor which he enumerated were to "remain to you and your successors for ever . . . also the third part of the tithes" from Man and the other Sodor isles. He also decreed that no one should "possess by right of inheritance the cemeteries of the churches and ecclesiastical benefices; but if any one shall have appropriated them, let ecclesiastical or canonical censure restrain him. Moreover, that which by the common consent of your Chapter, or the more (?) sensible (sanioris) section of the Council, shall have been canonically ordained by you or your successors in your diocese, we wish to remain ratified and secure. Moreover, we forbid any one from admitting to office or ecclesiastical communion those who have been excommunicated or suspended, and any one from venturing to contravene a decree canonically promulgated. We establish also the authority of the Sacred Canons, to wit the following: that no bishop or archbishop, without the consent of the Bishop of Sodor, should hold conventions, undertake the trial of cases ecclesiastical, or deal with matters of the Church, except he be empowered by the Roman pontiff or legate; in the churches also of the Sodor diocese, which do not belong to others by proper right, that no one venture to institute any cleric, or depose him, or deprive a priest without the consent of the diocesan. We decree also that in the election of your episcopal successors no violence, no influence of king or prince intervene; nor in the promotion of bishops let any one obtain the office of the prelacy, but let that man be set over the vacant see, whom those to whom the right of election properly belongs shall have judged most suitable by his learning and character, the canonical form in election having been observed. Clerics also and your tenants wishing duly to enjoy the liberty of your diocese, let no king, or prince, or lord venture to harass such by unlawful exactions. We decree therefore that no one at all shall cause annoyance to the aforesaid Church, or take its possessions, or retain them if taken, or mulct them or harrass them; but that all things be preserved intact for the use of those for whose government and support they were granted, saving however the authority of the Apostolical See."

This "authority of the Apostolical See" was, as we shall find, to become more powerful in Man during the following century.

We have now to record an important step in the organization of the Sodor Church, viz. the holding of a diocesan synod. This synod was held at Kirk Braddan, under the presidency of Bishop Simon, in 1229, when a number of ecclesiastical statutes were enacted. The more important of these were: (1) that the fee for proving a will was not to exceed thirty-two pence; (2) That the effects of intestates were to be administered subject to the will of the diocesan, or, in his absence, of the vicar-general; (3) That mortuary dues were to be levied. We also find the tithes on live stock, grain, beer, and woven cloth specified.

And now, for the first time, there is a record of church building in Man, as, according to the Chronicle, Bishop Simon began to build "the church of St. German, which became the cathedral of the diocese. As its site he selected what was probably considered the most sacred place in Man, i. e. the Island of St. Patrick, off Peel, where there was already a church dedicated to that saint. We have no contemporary description of the building, but as much of it remains at the present day, we can form an idea of what it was like. About forty years ago it was described as follows:— "In its general contour, and in the red sandstone which forms its material, it is strikingly like Carlisle Cathedral. . . . It is a small cross church with central tower, but without aisles or porches. . . . The east window is a small, plain, unequal triplet, with interior drip-stone. On the north side of the chancel are five lancets, also quite plain, under them two arched recesses. . . . The arrangement of the south side is the same as that of the north, except that under the fourth light is a door leading down by a passage concealed in the thickness of the wall to a crypt, barrel-vaulted, and diagonal-ribbed from thirteen short shafts. . . . The arches which support the tower are somewhat later than the choir; they are of two orders, and seem Early Middle Pointed ; but the sandstone is so much worn that it is impossible to speak certainly. The east window of the north transept was Middle Pointed, and seems to have had two lights. The north is the same, except that it has a plain door beneath it. The west is a lancet. The east window of the south transept resembles that of the north, except that it is not in the centre of that side, but more to the south. The south window is the same also, only it has no door under it, and is not in the middle, but to the east ; above it in the gable is a small window of two lights. The west side has a lancet and a door, which, as leading up from the sea steps, was the principal entrance to the cathedral. On the left hand, inside, is a circular benatura. The nave was also Middle Pointed. It has two blocked windows on the north; on the south four arches of construction, perhaps intended for a contemplated aisle, with four two-light obtuse-headed windows in them; the tracery has quite perished. The tower is short and squat, with a square belfry turret at its south-west angle. A heavy corbel-table runs round the transepts."

In 1871 the debris was removed from the crypt, and regularly built pilasters, twelve on each side, with projecting and chamfered base and cornice, were displayed, also two doorways and a loophole for light. In one of the recesses above referred to the bones of a man were found, which were conjectured to be those of Bishop Simon himself. Browne Willis, in his Survey of the Cathedral of Man, in 1727, gives a plan showing the bishop's throne on the south side of the chancel, the lord's seat at the north-west corner, and the officers' seat at the south-west corner. He describes it as "a plain structure, erected in the shape of a cross, with a tower in the middle, and consists of two single isles (sic) crossing each other, which are no more than nineteen foot in breadth, without pillars. The length from east to west is a hundred and thirteen foot and an half, and from north to south sixty-six foot and an half. In the tower (which stands upon four arches, sixteen foot and an half wide, and is ornamented at top, with overhanging or corbelled battlements, in nature of a castle) is neither bells nor windows."

In connexion with the cathedral, Bishop Simon established a chapter, which seems to have been a small body, probably composed of the nominees of Furness and Rushen, and not of the representatives of the clergy.

Of other ecclesiastical buildings in Man erected at this period, there are still some remains, viz. the west porch and front of Ballaugh (old church), in the Romanesque style, which, however, is not actually old work, but an imitation of it in the early eighteenth century; in the First Pointed style, the Crossag or abbey bridge of Rushen (the remains of the abbey itself being of later date), and the chapel of St. Michael, Langness. It would seem that the Manx churches still continued to perpetuate the general characteristics of the ancient keeills, though they were on a larger scale. There was the same absence of aisles, apses, and towers, the usual proportions being from sixty to seventy feet long, and from sixteen to twenty feet broad. In addition to the churches, there are other Christian monuments, viz. the sculptured tombstones (eighty-four in number at the present day), nearly the whole of which were erected during this period. And we may note, that "the Isle of Man probably possesses a larger number of early Christian sculptures than any other portion of Great Britain having an equal geographical area." Of these stones or slabs, about one-fourth have inscriptions, which are in the Old Norse language. In shape they "are in general rectangular, sometimes having the upper corners rounded off, and sometimes the whole head in what has been called a Wheel-cross. Occasionally the spaces between the limbs and the surrounding circle are pierced, and, in a few instances, the slab is itself cruciform. Usually both faces are sculptured, and in all cases the cross is the chief, if not the only feature. This is of the type known as 'Celtic,' ie. a modified Maltese cross within a circle, but having the shaft prolonged and the other limbs generally projecting slightly beyond the circle." In the ornamentation of these slabs "a regular development may be observed from the most simple Plait and Twist to the most complex and beautiful geometric designs, and from the geometric to the zoomorphic. A striking feature is the realistic and admirably drawn forms of birds and beasts of the chase."

In 1266 came the cession of Man and the Isles by Norway to Scotland (though Scotch rule was not established till 1275), and with it the advowson of the bishopric, "saving however in all things and entirely the right jurisdiction and liberty of the Church of Drontheim, which it has in respect of the bishop and Church of Man."

Of the bishops of the diocese during this period very little is known. The first of them was Roolwer, already mentioned, who was buried in Maughold churchyard. His successor, William, is a name only, "but after William in the days of Godred Crouan, Hamond, son of Iole, a Manxman," was bishop. If the Chronicle is right, Hamond must come in before 1095. A bishop of similar name, Wimund, but of English birth, is said by the York historians to have been consecrated between 1109 and 1114 by Thomas II, Archbishop of York. If we suppose that Thurstan (1119-1139) was the consecrator rather than Thomas, we can accept the story told about Wimund, by William of Newburgh, the chronicler, who knew him personally. He was the son of a peasant, and was educated as a chorister at Furness Abbey, which was founded in 1127. In due course he took holy orders, and displayed such intellect and eloquence that he was sent by the abbot with some monks to occupy the newly-established (in 1134) monastery in Man. By these qualities, combined with his suave and jovial manners and great stature, he so captivated the Manx that they elected him as their bishop. And now began the marvellous part of his history. He laid claim to the earldom of Moray, assuming the name of Malcolm Mac Heth, and asserting that he was the earl's son. He then ravaged south-western Scotland with fire and sword, and, with the help of the thane of Argyll, whose daughter he married, he compelled the King of Scotland to surrender to him the southern portion of his kingdom. He treated his subjects with such severity that they took an opportunity of seizing him when he had only a slender escort; they then blinded and mutilated him and shut him up in the monastery of Byland, where he told his story to William of Newburgh and where he died. It is not likely that such a personage bestowed much attention on his insular diocese.

Of John, the next bishop, nothing is known, except that he was a Cistercian of Savigny, and that he was consecrated by Henry Murdac, who was Archbishop of York between 1151 and 1153. He was followed by the equally obscure Gamaliel or Gamelin, who was consecrated by Roger, Archbishop of York. Next in order comes Reginald, the first of the Sudreyan bishops mentioned in the Icelandic annals, which would indicate that he was consecrated by the Archbishop of Drontheim. In 1158, King Godred was expelled by Somerled, to whom the introduction of a bishop called "Christian of Argyll" was probably due. This bishop may possibly have been identical with the Christian of Whithern, who presided over the Church of Galloway from 1154 to 1186. On Godred's return, six years later, Christian would seem to have disappeared, and then "Michael of Man, a person of irreproachable life and distinguished merits, a monk in deed as well as in word, received the episcopacy." He died in 1203, "at a good old age." His successor was probably Nicholas, seemingly the Koli mentioned in the Icelandic annals, who attended a Lateran Council in 1215, "died in 1217," and "was buried in Ulster in the monastery of Bangor." After him "Reginald, a nobleman of the royal race," nephew to kings Reginald and Olaf, was consecrated bishop. As will be seen from the following incident related by the Chronicle, he seems to have been a man of considerable strength of character. "After some days, Reginald, bishop of the Isles . . . came to the Isles to visit the churches. Olaf went to meet him with great alacrity, and was glad of his arrival, for the bishop was son of Olaf's sister, and ordered a great banquet to be prepared. Reginald, however, said to Olaf, 'I will not hold communication with you, brother, till the Catholic Church has canonically released you from the bonds of an unlawful marriage." This bold spirit seems to have inhabited a feeble frame, for we are told that "Labouring under constant infirmity, but never yielding to fatigue, giving thanks to God, he breathed his last, witnessing by his life to his faith, and was buried in the Abbey of St. Mary of Rushen." In 1219, there is mention in a papal bull, but not in the Chronicle, of a bishop of Man, name unknown, who was elected by the monks of Furness and consecrated by the Archbishop of Dublin. King Reginald, however, declined to receive him, and the pope consequently ordered the Bishop of Carlisle and Pandulf, his legate, to see him righted. This is almost certainly the Bishop N[icholas] who, in 1224, had "been compelled for a long time past to exile himself from his church, and cannot return thither, the lord of the land and others being altogether opposed to him." In consequence of this, the pope ordered the Archbishop of York to grant him permission to render up his bishopric, "if it should appear expedient so to do". This must have been done, as, in 1226, he signed as witness to a charter, Nicholas quondam (formerly) Manniae et Insularum Episcopus. According to the Chronicle, Reginald was succeeded by John, son of Herfare, "who, through a melancholy accident, and the negligence of his servants, perished by fire, and lies buried at Jerewos (? Jerveaux) in England".

Then came, in 1226, Simon of Argyll, who was evidently a man of considerable ability, and, according to the Chronicle, "of great prudence and learned in the Holy Scriptures". We have already seen how he built a cathedral, established a chapter, and held an important synod. He was also entrusted with the care of the diocese of Lismore (Argyll), "which, on account of the evilness of the times, had fallen into great poverty." In 1236, he prayed to be released from this additional charge, as he was unable "owing to his many infirmities to carry on the care of both sees", and his request was acceded to. If we can believe Bishop Wilson, who, however, quotes no authority, he had his palace at Kirk Michael, and, therefore, probably on the site of the modern Bishop's Court. We know nothing of the latter part of his episcopate, and even the time of his death is uncertain. For, in 1244, a bull was issued by Pope Innocent IV to the Archbishop of York for the election of a bishop "in the diocese of Sodor," while the Chronicle, under 1247, records that "in the same year died Simon, of blessed memory, bishop of the Isles, on the last day of February at the church of St. Michael the Archangel," that "he was buried in the Island of St. Patrick, in the Church of St. Germanus, which he himself commenced", and that his death occurred "in the 18th year of his episcopacy, at a good old age." But, if his tenure of the see commenced in 1226, and he held it for eighteen years, his death must have taken place in 1244, which, therefore, must be considered the more probable date, though the Chronicle states that the diocese was vacant for six years only, and that Bishop Richard was not appointed till 1253.

Laurence, who had been archdeacon, had been elected to succeed him, but was drowned together with the king and queen on his way home from Norway, whither he had gone for consecration. It would seem that during the next five years no bishop was elected, but whether this was due to the disturbed state of the kingdom or to the dispute between the chapter on the one side and the clergy and the people on the other, does not appear. During this interval (1244, or 1247, to 1253) the Abbot of Iona appears to have ruled the see in the absence of a bishop, as, in the words of the faculty from Innocent IV, "the abbot of the venerable monastery of St. Columba in the Sodor diocese received the use of the mitre and ring." In the year 1253, the foundation bull of the metropolitan see of Nidaros was renewed in extenso, and confirmed by Innocent IV. Later on in the same year, Richard, an Englishman, was appointed " Bishop of Sodor" by provision at Rome, and was consecrated there by the Archbishop of Nidaros. Four years later, he dedicated "the Church of St. Mary of Rushen in presence of Lord Magnus, King of Man and the Isles."

We have hitherto said nothing of the way in which these bishops were appointed. It would appear from a letter of King Olaf I to Thurstan, Archbishop of York, of uncertain date, but probably between 1134 and 1140, that it was determined by the king's "decree and the decision of the people," that a bishop was to be elected from the Furness community. The precedent thus set seems to have been usually followed, as, if we may rely upon a charter, dated 1203, as showing the general practice, it would seem probable that the monks of Furness chose one of their number as bishop, but that he could not be consecrated, unless he was approved of by king and people, as well as by the abbot and monks of Rushen. And yet Nicholas, the successor of Michael, in announcing his accession to the bishopric, declared that the election belonged of right to the monks of Furness Abbey, and, by his silence on the point, seemed to acknowledge no concurrent right of any other party.

In 1219, Pope Honorius VI spoke of "our beloved sons of the monastery of Furness, to whom belonged the election of the bishop of the Isles;" but, in the bull of 1231, the pope, while decreeing that "no violence, no influence of king or prince intervene" at the election, does not specify the electors. In 1244, Pope Innocent IV cautiously confirmed this supposed right of the Furness community, but only on condition that what they alleged was correct, which it certainly seems not to have been.

In 1247 there was a fresh claimant for the privilege of electing the bishop in the shape of the new chapter, who chose Laurence, Archdeacon of Man, for that office. In doing this, the monks, of whom the chapter was probably entirely composed, seem not to have consulted the secular clergy and people of Man, who promptly protested against losing their ancient right of participation in the election by writing to King Harald, then in Norway. The king consequently refused to assent to Laurence's consecration, until, in his presence, he should be elected by the clergy and people, in accordance with ancient custom. It does not appear by whom Richard, the next bishop, was elected; but, says Munch, "we may guess, with pretension almost to certainty, that the right of election continued some time to be a matter of dispute between the chapter and the other party, as we learn from the letter of Innocent IV to the chapter in 1253, that he (Bishop Richard) was named by provision, a rather unfailing sign in those times of the election having been disputed and protracted beyond the proper time." (We will follow the further course of this election dispute in Chapter III.)

It will be evident from what has been already stated, that during this period, especially during the latter part of it, the ecclesiastical power in Man, as in England, had been rapidly increasing, though it is not likely that such abuses occurred in the smaller country as in the larger ; for, as was said of a later period, the poverty of the isle was its best protection. We have seen how the possessions of the Church, especially those of the monks, had been increased from time to time by royal grants. In addition to those already mentioned, it is said to "have received the lands of Escedala (Groudle and district) from Godred II, the lands of Ormeshan (Onchan) from Reginald II, and finally, in 1257, the Church obtained from Magnus not only additional lands and privileges, but for her bishop the right to hold a court for his own demesne with powers of life and death, and for her clergy freedom from "all service, secular exaction and demand, forfeiture and fine." As regards the ordinary ecclesiastical courts, they were doubtless originally identical, as in England, with the civil courts, and, perhaps, the date of this document is also that of their separation from each other.

Briefly, then, the changes introduced into the Manx Church by its Scandinavian rulers seem to have been the placing it upon a territorial instead of a tribal basis, in other words, the substituting a parochial system and a diocesan episcopacy for tribal churches with monastic jurisdiction and functional episcopacy, and the introduction of the religious orders of the Church of Rome.


1 See "Chronicon Manniae," Manx Soc., vol. xxii. (Munch's edition). The quotations from this, and its notes by the editor and Dr. Goss, are so frequent at this period that, to save space, the reference to each is not given, the reader being simply referred to it generally. It begins in 1066, and ends in 1374, the earliest part of it probably not having been written earlier than the middle of the thirteenth century (see note 1, p. 13). It cannot be implicitly relied on either for facts or dates. Its authors were almost certainly the monks of Rushen Abbey.

2 "Baronius, Annales Eccles.," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., pp. 266-68, see note 2, p. 53.

3 Sacheverell, writing in 1702, states that Rushen Abbey was founded in 1098; but, as Furness, with which it was connected, was not founded till 1127, this seems improbable (see Manx Soc. vol. i., pp. 34-36).

4 Though Sir James Gell says, "I cannot discover that the Abbot or Convent of Furness exercised or had any rights over the Abbey of Rushen or its temporalities beyond those of patronage and jurisdiction" Manx Soc., vol. xii, p. 3).

5 From a bull of Pope Eugenius, in 1152, we learn that these lands were: "The lands of Carnaclet as far as the Monastery of St. Leoc, with their appurtenances; the village of Thorc, son of Asser (Kirk Michael); the village of Great Melau (? Malew); the village of Narwe, Stainredale with its appurtenances; the lands of St. Corebric and Fragerwl." (See "Chart. Furness, Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 8-11.) Perhaps the abbey church was first dedicated to St. Leoc, as it was not till 1257 that the church there was dedicated to St. Mary.

6 Dugdale, Monasticon, vol. i., p. 711, quoted by Train, vol. ii p. 53, as to abbey's share.

7 "Cart. Duc. Lanc.," Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 13-16.

8 Said to be the place now called Ballamona in Lezayre. It was formerly an island in the Curragh.

8 Though William of Worcester says that Rushen had only three monks (see Itinerary, p. 312).

9 The monks of Rushen removed to Douglas in 1172, returning to Rushen in 1176 (see Manx Soc., vol. xviii., p. 48).

10 "Cart. Duc. Lanc." pp. 17, 18.

11 Cott. MSS., Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 79-81.

12 See p. 34.

13 For Pope Anastasius states that Nicholas, bishop of Albano, "in accordance with instructions he had received from" Pope Eugenius, conferred the pallium on John, Archbishop of Drontheim; "and that the province of Norway might not ever afterwards be deprived of the care of a metropolitan, he constituted the city of Drontheim, which is under thy charge, perpetual metropolis of the said province, and ordained that the bishoprics of Oslo, Hamar, Bergen, Stavanger, the Orkneys, the Sudreys, the Icelandic Islands, and Greenland, should be in all future times subject to it as to their metropolis, and that the bishops of those sees should obey thee and thy successors as their metropolitan. Wherefore, in order that no one may ever attempt to violate this constitution, we confirm it by apostolic authority and strengthen it by the present instrument." - Diplomatarium Arna-Magnaearnum, pub. by Thorquelin, tom. ii p. 3. Manx Soc. vol. xxiii p. 278.

14 After 1422, bishops' names occur who seem to have been appointed for the Scotch isles only (see ch. iv.). It is possible, however, that though Man and the Isles were politically separated, Man continued under Drontheim till 1458, when by bull of Pope Calixtus it was placed under York. Münter, quoted by Robertson, Christian Church, vol. ii., p. 276, says that Nidaros and York contended as to jurisdiction over Sudreys, but no trace can be found of this.

15 There were also several minor political convulsions, such as the division of the Isles between Somerled and Godred, in 1156, and a somewhat different division between Somerled's son Reginald and Reginald of Man in 1187. It is curious that in these divisions the Manx kings retained the distant Hebrides, while surrendering most of the islands between them and Man.

16 "Vatican Archives", Manx Soc. vol. xxiii, pp. 336-43.

17 Ibid. vol. xxiii pp. 378-81.

18 Ibid. vol. xxii p. 258

19 Archbishop Moran writes in the Dublin Review (January 1876): "In a MS. of the fifteenth century, a sort of register-book of the fees paid to the Roman Church, there occurs under the head of 'Norway', the Bishopric of Sodor and Man, to which is added the Church of St Columba, of the Isle of Iona, two bezants yearly." Keith says that the diocese were separated in 1395, but his authority is very doubtful (Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, Edinburgh, 1802).

20 But though Sodor is almost certainly the correct name for this diocese, it will be more convenient, now that our readers are placed in possession of the facts of the case, to speak of it as Man only, as the available information about the other isles forms a scarcely appreciable part of the whole.

21 See p. 45.

22 The ancient armorial bearings of the see were, according to Keith's Catalogue of Scotch Bishops, Azure, St. Columba at sea in a cock-boat, all proper in chief, a blazing star, or. The present arms are on three ascents - the Virgin Mary, her arms extended between two pillars, dexter a church, in base the three legs. The whole being on an ornamental shield, surmounted by a bishop's mitre.

23 "Vat. Arch.", Manx Soc., vol. xxiii, pp. 285-8.

24 Perhaps we may place the formation of our modern parishes, viz. Bride, Jurby, Maughold, Lonan, Conchan, Braddan, Santon, Malew, Arbory, Rushen, Patrick, Marown, German, [for the dedication of this and the preceding parishes see ch. i., and Manx Names (A. W. Moore), pp. 204-213] Michael, Andreas, the church of which was dedicated to St. Andrew, Ballaugh, the church of which was dedicated to St. Mary, and Lezayre, the church of which was called Kirk Christ [it would be interesting to know why the two churches in Man dedicated to the Trinity, Rushen and Lezayre, were called Kirk Christ. We may note that Christ Church cathedral in Dublin is similarly dedicated] and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, at this period.

25 Theiner's "Vetera Monumenta," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., pp. 290-4.

26 Ibid., vol. xxiii, pp. 301-3.

27 Ibid., vol. xxiii., pp. 299-300.

28 This bull, of which the original is not known to exist, is preserved in a modern transcript (c.1600) which was discovered by Bishop Bardsley at Bishop's Court in 1888. It was published by the writer, with notes, in the Historical Review of January 1890.

29 The newly-established chapter (see p. 60) is here recognized, but we do not know what body is referred to by the title Council (Concilii).

30 Literally "every one."

31 This year was a remarkable one for the holding of a synod, if we are to believe the Chronicle, that in it "scarcely a single inhabitant was left" in Man. For statutes see Manx Soc., vol. ix., pp176-182.

32 Simon probably built the choir only, the nave being of the Middle-Pointed period.

33 Rev. J. M. Neale, Ecclesiological Notes, pp.29, 30. London, 1848.

34 But this is very improbable.

35 Manx Soc. vol. xxiii., p. 131.

36 According to Kermode, Manks Crosses.

37 Romilly Allen, "Early Christian Monuments of the Isle of Man" in Journal of British Archaeological Association, vol. xliii., p. 240.

38 Kermode, Manks Crosses, p. 4.

39 Ibid., p. 3.

40 Johnstone, "Antiq. Celto-Norm.," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii, pp. 323-33.

41 When no special reference is given to a bishop's name, it is to be understood that he is mentioned in the Chronicle.

42 "Dictus Wimundum Thomas sacrat ille secundus" Hist. Ebor., MS. Cotton. Cleopatra C. 4. Printed by Raine (Rolls Series), ii. 462. See also T. Stubbs ap. Twysden, Dec. Scriptt. p. 1713.

43 Hist. Rer. Anglic., lib. i, cap. xxiv., Rolls Series.

44 King Olaf I seems to have made an attempt at this period (1134-40) to introduce another bishop, Nicholas, during the life of Wimund; it was, however, repelled by the Church of York. This we gather from two undated documents in Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum (Manx Soc. vol. xxiii., pp. 269-73), which purport to be from Olaf to "T, Archbishop of York," and from the same to the "Dean and Community of York." In the first letter, the king states that he and the people had decided to elect a bishop from the Furness community, and in the second he threatens pains and penalties if "Nicholas, our bishop elect, consecrated by the hands of your Archbishop," is not sent to Man. We ascribe these documents to the above period, as they cannot refer to the bishop of 1210-17, or the bishop of 1224 (see pp. 55-6), both called Nicholas, Olaf II not being king till 1226, and, moreover, there is no mention of Drontheim, the then metropolitan of Sodor and Man. The whole subject is, however, very obscure. (See Chronicle, Manx Soc. vol. xxii pp.239-40.)

45 Chron. Norman. (Duchesne) p. 986; Hist. Ebor., MS. Cotton. Cleopatra C. 4. Raine, Historians of York, ii. 462. Matthew Paris calls him "Secundus episcopus Moinae Insulae" (Ed. Luard, ii. 188). He is not mentioned in the Chronicle.

46 Cleopatra C. 4.

47 The Chronicle places his death in 1193, but Münch, probably correctly, conjectures that it should be 1203. The succession of bishops at this period (1193-1226) is so uncertain, and the whole question is so uninteresting to the general reader, that the student is referred to the notes in the Chronicle of Man, in vol. xxii. of the Manx Society's publications, pp. 240-2.

48 Torfeus's History (A.D. 1700), p. 154.

49 Theiner's "Vetera Monumenta", No. 31, p.14, Manx Soc. vol. xxxiii pp. 296-8.

50 Add. MSS., Manx Soc. vol. vii pp. 67-8.

51 It must not be supposed that this application to the Archbishop of York was intended to exclude the rights of the metropolitan, for there was probably at this time an arrangement with him that, owning to the great distance of Man from Norway, such matters should be referred to York or Dublin (see note 3, p. 57).

52 Surtees Soc., ii., 92. Manx Soc., vol. xxii, p. 242.

53 Theiner's "Vetera Monumenta," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., p. 308.

54 "At his Palace at Kirk Michael," Manx Soc., vol. xviii., p. 123.

55 This was done by leave of the bishop of Nidaros (Drontheim), "because the church of Nidaros is very remote from the church of Man, and separated from it by a most dangerous sea." See "Diplomatarium Norwegicum", Manx Soc. vol. xxiii., pp. 309-10.

56 See p. 60.

57 Theiner's "Vetera Monumenta," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., pp. 309-10.

58 The insertion of Stephen in the list of the Bishops of Man in 1253 (Le Neve, iii. 325) is wrong. The person referred to as being administrator of Lismore is almost certainly Simon of Argyll. See p. 57, and Keith, Scottish Bishops, p.300.

59 "Vat. Arch.," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., pp.315-16.

60 Dugdale's " Monasticon Anglicanum," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii., pp. 269-271. See note 2, p. 53.

61 Cart. Duch. Lanc., 254.

62 This claim of the people to have a share in the election of their chief pastor tends to show that the landowners, at least, for the term "people" probably applies to them only, retained considerable rights, and that their kings were not despots but feudal superiors.

63 "Cart. Duch. Lanc.", Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 19, 20.

64 Theiner's "Vetera Monumenta", Manx Soc., vol. xxiii, p. 296.

65 See p. 46.

66 "Diplomatarium Norwegicum," Manx Soc., vol. xxiii, pp. 309-10.

67 The fact that there is no record of any protest on the part of the Furness monks against his election by the chapter would tend to show that it was subordinate to them.

68 "To the Chapter of the Church of the Sodor Diocese . . . The Church of the Sodor Diocese having been bereft of its pastor, the metropolitan has at our behest appointed to the said church as bishop and pastor, Richard . . . We ask your body, therefore, and exhort you, . . . to receive with cheerfulness the said bishop, &c. . . . In like manner, to the Clergy of the Sodor city and diocese" ("Vat. Arch.", Manx Soc., vol. xxiii, pp. 315-16).

69 The cell and priory of St. Bees received lands between the Dhoon and Corna from an unknown donor probably at this period. See Manx Soc., vol. iv., p.229 (original authority unknown).

70 But though he obtained these powers, it must be remembered that he was a Baron of the Isle, and was therefore obliged to do homage to its king.

71 Add. MSS., Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 89-92.


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