[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
BISHOP'S COURT ANTIQUITY OF THE BISHOPRICK CHARACTERS OF BISHOPS WILSON, HILDESLEY, RICHMOND, MASON, AND CRIGGAN DERIVATION OF THE TITLE OF SODOR PATRONAGE OF THE BISHOPRICK BISHOP'S REVENUE AND OFFICERS.
ABOUT a mile from Kirk-Michael is the residence of the Bishop of Sodor and Man, which was formerly a venerable edifice; but by the present Bishop the ancient palace was demolished, and on its ruins a modern building erected; inferior in external magnificence, but more adapted to the refinement and luxury of modern times.
The Bishoprick of the Island was founded in 447; and was committed to Germanus, a holy and prudent man, " ad regendum et prudiendum populum in fide Christi :(1) and, as a public testimony of the veneration due to his virtues, the cathedral of the Isle was dedicated to him(2). His successors were numerous, and some of them were distinguished by their learning and piety: among whom the Manks, with some degree of pride and gratitude, may rank the name of Isaac Barrow; a Prelate of great beneficence, who in 1671 was translated to the See of St. Asaph. Some years afterwards, Thomas Wilson was consecrated Bishop of Sodor and Man. This venerable Prelate, after a life of exemplary piety and benevolence, died in the 58th year of his consecration, and lies buried in the churchyard of Kirk-Michael. Over his grave a monument has been erected by his son, the late Dean of St. Paul's, with a very modest account of his father, concluding with,
" Let this Island speak the rest!"
And well it may; for to Bishop Wilson many of the poor natives are indebted for the most invaluable blessings.
Venerable in his aspect, meek in his deportment, his face illumined with benignity, and his heart glowing with piety, like his divine Master, " he went about doing good." With the pride and avarice of prelacy he was totally unacquainted. His palace was a temple of charity. Hospitality stood at his gate, and invited the stranger and beggar to a plenteous repast. The day he devoted to benevolence, and the night to piety. His revenue was dedicated to the poor and needy. And not contented with relieving the wants, or mitigating the woes of mankind, he was solicitous, by his precept and example, to conduct his little flock to the kingdom of Heaven. He died in the ninety-second year of his age, justly revered and lamented by the whole Island: while his grave was watered with the tears of those, whom his bounty had supported; his benignity had gladdened, or his eloquent piety had " turned unto righteousness." Even to this day, many of the inhabitants of the Island never hear his name mentioned, but the tear of gratitude insensibly swells into their eye, and their faltering tongue blesses the memory of their pious and venerable benefactor.
Bishop Wilson was succeeded by Mark Hildesley, a Prelate who assiduously imitated the piety and benevolence of his predecessor. At the desire of the Duke of Athol, he was nominated by the whole body of English Bishops, as a person worthy of wearing the mitre which Bishop Wilson, by his virtues had so adorned. Besides a life of private beneficence, he established a charity-school at Kirk-Michael, and under his auspices, the scriptures were translated into the Manks language.
He died in the 17th year of his consecration, and lies buried, with his wife, under a black marble monument, by the side of Bishop Wilson,
These two holy men seem to have been selected by Providence, and crowned with a length of years, that by their pious la hours they might humanize and enlighten, a barbarous people.
The next Bishop of Sodor and Man was Richard Richmond, an eloquent preacher, yet a haughty Prelate, He died at London, and was succeeded by George Mason, whose temerity has already been noticed. It may not however be improper to observe, that into this error he was seduced by the artifice of others, operating on his gratitude; and that his private character was virtuous and amiable. He died in 1784; and was succeeded by Claudius Criggan, the present Bishop; a man of deep penetration. polished manners, and domestic virtues. Of his pulpit-eloquence there are several admirers; yet some have imagined his gesture too oratorical, and his language too florid, for the simplicity and dignity of a Prelate.
The See of the Island is stiled Sodor and Man; and this title of Sodor has perplexed many. Camden derives it from "a small Island near Castletown, in which Pope Gregory the Fourth erected an Episcopal See :" but no such Island is now visible. Buchanan, speaking of the Isle of Man, says; " Superior aetas oppidum in ea Sodoram appellabat, in qua Insularum Episcopus sedem habebat(3) " and Archbishop Spotswood writes, that in the Isle of Man a " stately church was erected to the honour of our Saviour, called Sodorense Fanum; that is, the Temple of our Saviour: and hence it is that the Bishops are stiled Sodorenses Episcopi(4)" while others, with a greater degree of probability, have derived the title of Sodor from a village of that name, in the Isle of I-Columb-Kill, where the Bishop of the Western Isles had anciently his residence; but after the Norwegian conquest of the Isle of Man and the Western Isles of Scotland, the Bishopricks were united with the title of Sodor and Man; which union continued till the English conquered this Island, and then, the Bishop of Sodor and Man still retained his title, while the Scotch Prelate assumed that of Bishop of the Isles.(5)
By Henry the Fourth,the patronage of this Bishoprick, with the royalty of the Island, was granted to Sir John Stanley and his successors: and to this day, the Dukes of Athol, as his descendants, have the honour of nominating the Bishop of Sodor and Man: who, on receiving his Majesty's approbation, is consecrated by the Archbishop of York, and installed in Peel cathedral.
The Bishop was anciently the first Baron in the realm, and at present claims (I presume chiefly through courtesy) the title and dignity of a Peer(6): but as the Bishoprick was not one of those spiritual Baronies constituted by William the Conqueror, nor the Bishop elected by the King's Conge d'elire, he has no seat in the British parliament.
His power was formerly ample, and sometimes intolerant; but since the triumph over clerical oppression in 1643, it has been limited by moderation and justice. His revenue however increases; for within these few years it has exceeded 12001. per annum: a liberal sum in this Island, blessed with such abundance not only of the comforts, but also of the luxuries of life.
Under the Bishop are an Arch-Deacon, two Vicars-General, and an Episcopal Register, who, with their Prelate, compose the Consistory-Court, and have under their jurisdiction seventeen parishes. Of the parochial Clergy I shall give some account in a subsequent chapter, on the manners and character of the Manks; and at present proceed to finish my journey through the Island.
2: "This Cathedral was built by Simon, Bishop of Sodor, who died in 1245, and was here buried." Bishop Wilson.
3: lib. i.
4: Book First
5: After the English Conquest, the name of Sodor was given to Peel isle, (called by the Norvegians Holm ) in which are the remains of the Cathedral and Episcopal Palace.
6: "The arms of the Bishoprick are upon three ascents, the Virgin Mary standing with her arms extended between two pillars: on the dexter whereof a church, In base the ancient arms of Man."-Sacheverell.