[From Proc IoMNHAS vol 1]
(By Rev. Canon Quine, M.A.)
i. An entry in the Chronicon Manniae assigns the building of S. German's to Bishop Symon (1226--47), viz., ecclesia Germani, quam ipse aedificare ceperat," the Church of German which he himself had begun to edify. By the word " edify " we must, however, understand, not only build, but rather, perhaps, the intention of the building, that is, the creation of an oedes or " house," viz., the organization of a chapter of canons, and in effect create into a cathedral ! Also whatever his building was with this object in view the Chronicle implies that he began a work which he did not complete ! It must be borne in mind that Symon had been Abbot of Iona, and had been engaged in the extension of the buildings there ; consequently we must expect in his work at S. German's something of the same character as in the work at Iona.
ij. That S. German's already existed, and that as a church of great antiquity, before Symon's time, is evident from Jocelin's " Life of Patrick " (1183) ; and it is probably with Jocelin rather than with Symon that we must associate the earliest part of the existing Cathedral, viz., the exceedingly beautiful chancel of S. German's, which, in a frightfully mutilated form, speaks of builders quite other and quite alien work persons and conceptions forced to give place to Symon and the ideas he had brought with him from Iona !
iij. The Church of German's has three lancets in the east gable, five on each side, north and south, and a sixth on each side walled up near the chancel arch. The stone used in the chancel for these windows, but found in no other part of the Cathedral, is a golden yellow sandstone from quarries in County Down, in Ireland. In origin and style, the chancel is " transitional," the exterior treatment of windows panelled between pilasters, distinctly Norman in feeling ; and it is not too early a date to assign the chancel to the year 1195. The building, moreover, has everywhere a "feeling," a tenderness of treatment, peculiarly associated with Cistercian workmanship though in the mutilated state in which we see it, the attempt of so simple a building to be beautiful is a monument of pathos in stone. The historical evidence affords a strong probability that the chancel belonged to the reign of Reginald, the Usurper (1187-1226); viz., before the episcopate of Symon ; also that it was built by Cistercian workmen, as well as designed by a Cistercian architect ; and that the terrible family feud, in which (1226) Olaf triumphed, accounts for no mention of anything reflecting honour on Reginald and those Churchmen working under his patronage.
iv. To understand the political history of this period, it is sufficient to say that Aufrica, daughter of Godred II., and sister to Reginald, the Usurper, married John de Courcy, Lord of Down. De Courcy introduced the Cistercian Order into Down by founding Inch Abbey, near Downpatrick ; and Jocelin of Furness, author of the "Life of Patrick," which he wrote under de Courcy's patronage, came from Furness to Downpatrick to organize the newly-founded Abbey at Inch in 1181. Later, in 1188, Jocelin is found occupying the position of Abbot of Rushen, and witness to a charter of Reginald, confirming to Furness " all the liberties and dignities " conceded to that Cistercian house by Olaf I. He had doubtless received this preferment to Rushen as a reward for his work at Inch Abbey ; the relations between Reginald, on the one hand, and De Courcy and Aufrica, his wife, being uniformly one of friendship and mutual support. Moreover, in 1139, Aufrica founded in the Ards of Down, over against Man, the Cistercian Abbey of Grey. We find, then, that at this period, and down to the date of De Courcy (1203), both he and his wife were patrons of the Cistercian Order. We already see Reginald confirming to the Cistercians their existing dignities in Man. Later, on his death in 1228, he was buried in Furness Abbey at the spot " which he himself had previously chosen to be his burial place."
v. Now, all these facts are necessary in order to explain that the Cistercian Order is found in possession of lands in the parish of S. German, over against S. German's Cathedral, extending two miles or so along the west, and equal distance inland, in area considerably exceeding 2,000 acres ; and adjoining over 1,000 acres of other church lands forming Bishop's Barony, glebes, and lands given for education, but in the XV. Century alienated into the hands of the Stanleys. No record is extant of how these 2,000 acres of land became Cistercian property ; but it is probable that the donor was Reginald ; and that these lands were the patrimony of the Church of S. German's.
vj. When we examine the chancels of Inch Abbey and of Grey Abbey in County Down, there is immediately seen to be a striking identity in design, style, the mouldings, the stone used, and the very mason work of the walls with the chancel of S. German's. One sees not only the same architect, but the same masons. It might be said that S. German's chancel was brought bodily from Ireland. The presumption is that Jocelin was the link of connection. A rather singular entry in the Chronicon Manniae says that (1192) "the Abbey of S. Mary of Russin was transferred to Dufglas, and there dwelling through four years they returned again to Russin." That this migration was in connection with the re-edifying of the Nunnery or Priory of Nuns at Douglas, there can scarce be a doubt ; the traditional connection of this Priory with Aufrica, suggesting that her interest in a foundation bearing the name of St. Bridget, whose grave had been (professed) discovered just before that in 1186 at Downpatrick, and that foundation in Man would lead her to re-habilitate it. And to the same period we must assign the beginnings at least of a Cistercian foundation on Peel islet, whether under the auspices of Aufrica or not there is no evidence ; but there is a tradition that she founded Grey Abbey the Abbey of the Vow-de jugo Dei in fulfilment of a vow in a storm at sea, when returning from visiting her brother Reginald.
vij. With the death of John de Courcy in 1203, the fortunes of Reginald became less flourishing. With the fate of Reginald in 1226, the projects of a Cistercian foundation on Peel islet came to an end. Rishop Symon was a Benedictine. His idea seems to have been to found a Chapter of Canons ; and after his death we find this Chapter in existence. The tower and transepts seem to be his work ; character and feeling identical with that of Iona being suggested in this part of the church. In order to erect the tower and transepts it was necessary to cut away the west end cf the chancel, and block up the windows.
Nearest the tower, the floor of the chancel was at that time at a lower level than now. It does not appear that Symon necessarily contemplated the building of a nave ; for the situation of the church made a nave seem out of the question ; and certainly the existing nave is of later date.
viij. But that Symon's work was considerably more than the tower and transepts is evident ; for the cluster of buildings immediately north of the Cathedral, usually called the Bishop's Palace, proves on examination to be arranged wonderfully like the arrangement at Iona. The cramped and limited situation and area of these buildings prevent this likeness to Iona being at first seen ; but on examination the ground plans of Iona conventual buildings and these buildings on St. Patrick's Isle show that the latter was probably copied from the former ; and as Symon had been Abbot of Iona, such an aim in arrangement is simply naturally explained. These buildings were doubtless the residence of the Chapter, for Symon himself seems to have had his residence on his estate at Bishop's Court, where the old tower and traces of moat are without reasonable doubt as early as his time.
ix. The nave of S. German's, 'erected on a rocky slope several feet higher than the level of the tower and transept's floor, shows on its north side windows of early English style, not earlier than the time of Bishop Richard (1251-75) ; but more probably of the time of Bishop Mark (1275-98). At this time the floor of the chancel was raised to a like level with the floor of the nave, by a vaulting underneath ; and the floor of the tower and transepts raised by being filled with a packing of earth. The beauty of the chancel was mercilessly destroyed, not only by the raising of the floor, but also by the construction of a stairway in the south wall, to reach the newly-vaulted crypt. It is probable that the older crypt occupied the site of the the immemorial church of S. German that Jocelin was acquainted with in 1183 ; and possibly this crypt was a shrine of some considerable sanctity. For, though Reginald, whom we suppose to have given the Kirk German Abbey-lands to the Cistercians, was generous to that Order, we assume he was generous with what was already ancient Church land, viz., the patrimony of the Church of S. German.
x. At a later date, a south aisle was added to the nave, most probably in the time of Bishop Russell (1350-75). This aisle became a ruin about the end of the 15th century ; was removed and the arcade built up, with a small perpendicular window in each bay. Many alterations of the church in details of windows and other ,ninor structural work can be traced and appreciated only when seen.
xj. It is interesting to note that the two ancient churches of S. Patrick and S. German (viz., the Cathedral) were the parish churches of the two extensive parishes on the mainland, constituting the sheading of Glenfaba. In the course of time, the inconvenience of this ended in a chapel the Church of S. Peter, in Peel town being erected on the mainland to serve as a common parish church for both these parishes ; and this Church of S. Peter remained the de facto parish church of both parishes till 1714 ; and of Kirk German parish till 1894. It is more difficult to say when S. Peter's was erected. It contains a piscina, and is certainly of pre Reformation date. One may venture to think it existed in 1420 [fpc Quine was probably correct - see ref in 1428 Garrison Roll], when the visitation of the Bishop's commissary is recorded as held in Peel-town, presumably in S. Peter's Church. The building of the Castle a work of various periods may have at some point rendered free access to the churches on the islet increasingly objectionable ; and this combined with the actual inconvenience, doubtless ended in the abandonment of the popular claim to parochial rights on the islet.
xij. With the Reformation, the Cathedral seems to have steadily gone to decay . The last Bishop enthroned in S. German's was Bishop Hildesley (1755) ; the choir only being at that time covered with a roof ; the nave has been occasionaly used for interments till within recent years, the graves of necessity being quarried out of the rock, which comes very close to the surface. Both Bishop Symon and Bishop Mark were buried in S. German's ; and various other Bishops, the last being Bishop Rutter (1653), the only one whose tomb remains.