[Note 54 ManxSoc vol 22]

NOTE 54, p. 112.—Hi fuerunt episcopi, etc.

When comparing the list of the bishops given here with those mentioned by English annalists and in the Icelandic annals, we perceive in the beginning a difference of statements, sufficient to make it evident that indeed sometimes there have been two or three bishops at once 1 As for" Roolwer" (Hrôlfr), whose name shows hint to have been of Norwegian origin, and his three successors, of whom nothing more is known than what is said here, they stand without rivals, the other records not mentioning any bishop so far back. The first mentioned in the Icelandic annals is Ragnaldus or Reginald (Reinardus) whose deaths is recorded for the year 1170 ; but while our Chronicle makes Reginald to be succeeded by Christinus of Argyll, Christinus by Michael, who died 1193 (p. 80), and Michael by Nicholas, who died 1217 (p. 82), the Icelandic annals say expressly, that after the death of Reginald there was no bishop for forty years, when, AD. 1210, a bishop was consecrated, named Koli. In some manuscripts of the annals "Reinardus" is corrupted into "Nemar," and it is evens recorded that this Nemar was taken prisoner. On the other side, we learn from Stubb’s Acta pontiff Eboracens. (Twysden, p. 1217), compared with Matthew of Paris, William of Newbury, etc., that Wimund, the same who afterwards stepped forth as a pretender to the Scottish crown, under the name of Malcolm Mac Heth, but being then priest in Skye, was consecrated bishop by Thomas, Archbishop of York, who died A.D. 1114; amid that he was succeeded by John, a monk front Savigny 2 (Matthew Paris, p. 60); John, as it appears from King Olaf’s letters, printed in the Appendix, Nos. 3 and 4, being again succeeded by a Nicholas,3 a monk in the abbey of Furness, about 1130, as it is to Archbishop Thurstan (1119-1139) that King Olaf applies for his consecration, while the monastery itself had existed only since AD. 1126. It appears, therefore, that Wimund, John, and Nicholas, must have been contemporary with William and Gamaliel, perhaps even with Reginald mentioned in our Chronicle and that Christinus, Michael, and Nicholas of our Chronicle, were contemporary with the long vacancy and Koli of the Icelandic annals, whom we believe to be the same as Nicholas (this name being sometimes abridged to Colas, Claus, etc.).

This confusion is to be regarded as a product of many factors. To resolve the riddle, it is first of all necessary to distinguish between the period before the erections of the metropolitan see of Nidarós by the bull4 of Pope Anastasius IV., in 1154, when the Sudreys were expressly annexed to this province as a suffragan diocese, and the times subsequent to the said bull. Before this arrangement, Man at least was evidently regarded as belonging to the province of York, and perhaps also the other Isles, as, indeed, was the whole of Scotland, at least according to the pretensions of the Archbishop of York ; but it is very probable that Man and the Isles had not always one bishop in common, but either of them one of their own5 and moreover, that here, as in Norway before 1111, no distinct bishoprics with fixed residences existed ; but that the bishops were only ambulatory, or court-bishops. From the letter of Pope Innocent IV., which we have reprinted in the Appendix, No. 19, we see that the monks of Furness abbey, in Lancashire asserted the right of electing the bishops of Man from their own number, which right may be they founded upon the agreement recorded in the letter of King Olaf I., which we have given in the Appendix, No. 3, although, front the fact that previous to the election here spoken of one bishop at least was taken from the monastery of Savigny, the mother of Furness, the right of election seems already to have been exerted by this monastery, and to have been transferred to the daughter abbey, when that was founded in 1126.

It is, however, very probable that the agreement mentioned in the aforesaid letter was never meant to establish a general rule for the time to come, but only to arrange the election for the present occasion, and the election of Wimund and John had been arranged in a similar manner, —a connection, the cause of which we do not presume to investigate, having evidently sprung up between Savigny abbey and the royal family of Man ; and that the king and people never thought of giving up their right of electing the bishop in common, since indeed, as we shall see by and by, they asserted that right even in later days, and with final success. Now it is very likely that the Archbishop of York, declaring this manner of election to be uncanonical, pretended that the right of election belonged to himself and his chapter, because Man had no chapter of its own, and that he even made use of this right: indeed, the letter of King Olaf to the chapter of York (Appendix, No. 4), alludes evidently to an unwillingness on the part of the latter to acknowledge the election of Nicholas. We think, therefore, that Gamaliel,6 who must have been contemporary with John and Nicholas, was named by Archbishop Thurstan, especially, as he is expressly said to have been an Englishman, and buried at Peterborough, while Wimund, being formerly priest in Skye, was rather bishop of the Isles, and not of Man.

When the metropolitan see at Nidarós was erected, the pretensions of the Archbishop of York as to the jurisdiction over Man and the Isles must necessarily have come to an end, or ought at least to have been cancelled, while it appears that the archbishop and chapter of Nidarós now asserted the right of electing the bishops to all those suffragan sees of the province which had no chapters of their own, viz. Skalaholt, and Hólar in Iceland, Garðar in Greenland, the Faereys, and of course also the Sudreys, which right, indeed, it succeeded in establishing in the four first-named dioceses, where hitherto, at least ins Iceland, the election7 had been used to be effected almost in the same manner as in Man. In the Isles this pretension must evidently have occasioned new differences.

The fact that Ragnald 8 or Reginald was a Norwegian, and is mentioned first of all the Sudreyan bishops in the Icelandic annals, shows clearly that his nomination was due to the authority of the Nidrosian see, and that we ought to date it from A.D. 1152, when the see was founded, and all these matters arranged by Cardinal Nicholas Break-spear, afterwards to be sanctioned by the papal bull. And when we remember, what has been shown before, that just at that time King Godred was in Norway, suing for support, and submitting himself and his possessions entirely to the Norwegian crown, which indeed was evidently the cause why the Sudreyan see was made a suffragan to that of Nidarós, we may easily account for the fact that the authority or pretensions of this see were then acknowledged and obeyed for the nonce, and it is even very probable that Godred himself brought Reginald out with him when he returned to Man in 1153. The statement that Reginald made an important arrangement with his flock about the episcopal revenues, seems also, somehow, to bear witness that he exercised no small degree of influence, and probably enjoyed the protection of the king. Yet when Godred was expelled by Somerled of Argyll in 1158, it is very likely that Reginald shared his fate, and followed him to Norway,9 which supposition is greatly corroborated and grows almost to certainty by the fact expressly stated in our Chronicle, that Christinus10 who is said to have succeeded him, was an Argyle-man, evidently a protégé of Somerled, and introduced by this usurper. It is not very likely that Christinus was consecrated by the archbishop of York ; he must rather be supposed to have come from Ireland, since he was buried at Benchor Abbey, in Ulster, of which he probably was a monk. Of course, under these circumstances, Christinus could not be acknowledged as the right bishop by the Norwegians, and this accounts for his not being mentioned in the annals. We are rather inclined to think that Reginald did not return from Norway, but remained there till his death in 1170.

When Christinus then, as we do not doubt, was in Isis turn expelled by Godred after the fall of Somerled, it is to be supposed that Godred, who did not care much for his allegiance to Norway when not pressed by sheer necessity, proceeded to arrange an election after the old fashion, since it is expressly stated that Michael, the elected, was a native of Man. There can be no doubt that he was consecrated by the Arch bishop of York, front his being buried at Fountain Abbey,11 to which congregation he must have belonged ; and this circumstance explains very well why he too was not acknowledged by the Norwegians or mentioned in the Icelandic annals. He is said in our Chronicle to have died A.D. 1193, yet as the same year is also affixed to the preceding entry about’ the captivity of King Richard, there is a strong presumption that the repetition is wrong, and that we ought to read 1203, especially as it is immediately followed by an entry of AD. 1204. In this case, the bishop who is said in the Saga of Bishop Gudnimund to have been with King Olaf in one of the islands south of Lewis, when Gudmund and Rafn Sveinbjarnarson arrived there in 1202 on their way to Norway, must have been this Michael ; if, however, Michael died in 1193, that bishop was his successor Nicholas. Yet as Nicholas, like Christinus, was an Argyle-man, and was buried at Benchor, in Ire land, we are rather inclined to think that he belonged to this monastery,12 and that his nomination happened during the affairs which King Reginald had with Ireland in 1204 and 1205. As there can scarcely be any doubt that he was the identical person who is called Kohi in the Icelandic annals, his consecration, we see must have been deferred till AD. 1210, and it must have been celebrated by the Norwegian archbishop, or with his permission, because otherwise he would hardly have been mentioned in the said annals, or acknowledged as bishop, more than his predecessors, the episcopates of whom are regarded as a blank of forty years.13 It was no doubt chiefly on account of the confusion here mentioned,14 that Pope Innocent III., at the request of Archbishop Eric of Nidarós, issued a brief in the month of February AD. 1205, by which he declared that the bishops who belonged to the province of Nidarós ought to be consecrated by him and his successors only, and by no other bishop, except when the metropolitan See was vacant, yet even then not without the consent of the Nidrosian chapter; the suffragan Sees subjected to that of Nidarós being, besides the four ins Norway proper, those of the Orkneys, Sudreys, Faereys, Iceland, and Greenland.15

This declaration, however, was not observed for any length of time, as already Reginald,16 who succeeded Nicholas in 1217, was no doubt a monk of Russin, since he was buried there, and Russin being a daughter of Furness, the monks of this abbey probably now again exerted their pretended right, whence it follows, that Reginald was consecrated by the Archbishop of York ; this is also corroborated by his not being mentioned in the Icelandic annals, and consequently, as we must infer, not acknowledged by- the Nidrosian See. His successor Johns, of whom nothing else is known, seems likewise, to infer from his burial place, to have been consecrated at York. It was not till the consecration of his successor Simon, that the metropolitan rights of the Nidrosian See commenced to be duly respected and obeyed for a longer period. As Simon was consecrated in 1226, the time of the successive episcopates of Reginald and John added together cannot have exceeded nine years.


1 [This conjectural solution of the chronological difficulty does not seem probable. It is against the express testimony of the Chronicle, and includes the very unlikely hypothesis that the Chronicle would have omitted mention of such a remarkable occurrence had it happened, whilst we find it on various occasions relating the difficulties that attended the appointment of the bishops of the Island, though of much less moment. Moreover, this very unusual abuse of two or three rival bishops, is supposed by the conjecture to have been repeated on sundry occasions within a very short period, including that immediately following the new arrangement of the ecclesiastical province, when we should imagine matters to have been conducted with more than usual attention to rights and rule, whilst so many interested parties were looking on, and Rome, as appears from some of the documents in the Appendix, seems to have entered so much into the details of the ecclesiastical management of the Island. Perhaps Professor Munch has been misled by his theory of a standing contest between Nidarós and York respecting the Sodor See, for which there appears no foundation in the facts alleged, as we shall see later,]

2 [John, a monk of Seez in Nornmandy, succeeded Wimund, according to Matthew Paris, in 1151. He was consecrated by Henry Memrdacin, who was Archbishop of York from 1147-1153. Possibly he may have been Bishop of Whithern, though the Rev. W. Stubbs considers that he is erroneously so-called in the metrical history of York, yet the omissions of his name in the Manx Chronicle, and the assertions of the metrical writer, ought to outweighs Matthew Paris.

" But Candida Casa owned York for her mother,
Her reverenced she ever, and reverenced mother,
No church in all Scotland is older or whiter,
But the fame of her saints shines, if possible, brighter
What tongue can recite, or what memory learn
The roll of the saints that have hallowed Whithern ?
Father Roger ordained Gamaliel for one
And Henry performed the same office for John."

—Cottons MS., Cleopatra, c. 4.

In Dr. Oliver’s Mon. ii. 111, may be seems the bull of Pope Eugemnius III. in 1152 (1153), confirming the gift of Olave of Man of certain lands to the abbey of Furness. At the survey made 26 Henry viii. the tithes of the churches in Man appertaining to Furness are set down at £6 13 :4.—West’s Furness, pp. 107-8.]

3 [Munch is commonly thought to err in attributing the dispute about the consecrations of Nicholas to the reign of Olave I. It belongs to Olave II., nearly a hundred years later. Many of the difficulties which Munch fails to solve arise from this error.]

4 [See Appendix, No. 5.]

5 From the letter of Innocent IV., issued AD. 1247, to a chieftain in Kentire (Appendix, No. 20), we learn that then the diocese of Argyle was called diocesis Lismoresssis; Lismore being one of the Isles, it is not unlikely that the diocese comprehended some more of these in former times. [It was not so. Lismore diocese was formed out of the bishopric of Dunkeld.]

6 [Gamaliel succeeded John, being consecrated by Roger de Pont l’Eveque in 1154. His obit was kept at Peterborough, July 13 (Mon. Ang. H. 362). Roger was Archbishop of York from 1154-81. As Pope Anastasius IV. inn 1154 made Man dependent on Nidarós, the consecration of Gamaliel probably took place before the Pope’s bull came into operation. In Oliver’s Mon. ii. 13, will be found a renewal by Godred of the charter of Olave, conferring on Furness the right of electing the Bishop of Man and the Isles.]

7 [An archbishop had not usually the election of his suffragans, though they were bound to seek consecration at his hands. At present the Pope allows a bishop to select his own consecrator, who must, however, be in communion with the Holy See.]

8 [Reginald, Ronald, or Nemar, was most likely consecrated in Norway. Cumming assigns him to 1181, and supposes him to have been the first Bishop of Man consecrated by the archbishop of Drontheim; but the Icelandic Chronicle places his death in 1170, or forty years previous to 1210, the year given for the consecration of Claus, Koli, or Nicholas. The date of the bull of Anastasius IV. fixes that of the foundation of the See, December 1, 1154. William the Lion of Scotland, in 1166, came to Mount St. Michael, and with him the Bishop of Man and thirty-one other’ islands, which the King of the Isles holds of the King of Norway, by the payment of ten marks of gold to every new king. No other payment is made during the life of that king, or until the appointment of a successor.— Robertson, i. 363, a.]

9 If there is some truths in the above-mentioned statement, found in some manuscripts of the Icelandic annals, that Reginald, or, as he is called, Nemar, was taken prisoner, this corroborates our opinion ; it being then evident that he was taken prisoner by Somerled, who perhaps afterwards permitted him to go to Norway, on the condition of not returning to the Isles.

10 [There was a Christian who presided over the see of Whithern from 1154-1186 ; but this cannot be the same, though Mr. Stubbs (Reg. Sac. Ang.) once supposed so. In Cumming and Hardy’s Le Neve he is erroneously styled an Orkney man ; he was of Argyll—Archadiensis, not Orchadiensis.]

11 [It does not follow either that Michael was a monk of Fountains, or that he was consecrated at York, because he was buried at Fountains : he was, no doubt, a Cistercian. Cumming makes him succeed in 1195; but the Chronicle makes him die in 1193, which a marginal note corrects to 1203. In 1186, Pope Urban III. confirmed to Furness the grants, privileges, alms, and dignities conferred by Stephen and Henry of England, and by the kings of the Isles (Olave and Godred?) —Oliver’s Mon. ii. 15. In 1188, Reginald, son of Godred, King of Man, confirmed to Furness the charter of his grandfather Olave, conferring on that monastery the right of electing from its inmates the bishop of Man and the Isles.—Oliver’s Mon. ii. 17.]

12 [This conjecture is erroneous, for the annals of the abbey of Meaux (Melsa) recently published under the authority of the Master of the Rolls, show him to have been first a monk of that monastery, subsequently Abbot of Furness, and lastly Bishop of Man and the Isles.]

13 [This reasoning is not conclusive. Nicholas was a man of mark : his attendance at the general council, the fourth of Lateran under Innocent III., in 1215, and his exile from his See, may have made him better known than his predecessors. Besides it is difficult to account for the omissions of some facts, and the enmity of others of less importance, in the annals of any country.]

14 [More likely the Pope issued the bull not to prevent but to correct an irregularity; possibly the difficulty of obtaining consecration for Nicholas at York may have arisen from the bull.]

15 [The episcopate of Nicholas fell in evil days. In Man and the Isles there existed a feeling of bitter hostility between Olave and Reginald, which eventually broke out into civil war, ending in the death of Reginald. In Norway the Archbishop of Drontheim was compelled to seek safety by flight from the vengeance of Swerro, and though recalled by Hako III., yet the country continued a prey to civil dissension, which came to an end only in 1241. The difficult chronology of this episcopate almost leads to the belief that there must have been two bishops bearing the name of Nicholas. Under date 1193, the Chronicle records the death of Michael, and adds that Nicholas succeeded him not it does not follow that he succeeded immediately, and Munch and others suppose that the date ought to be 1203 Beck suggests even 1213. Under date 1193, Dr. Oliver (Mon. ii. 19) gives a charter of Nicholas, Bishop of the Isles, in which he makes known his election by the monks of Furness, to whom the right of election has been granted by Kings of the Isles, and confirmed by Popes ; not the charter is without date. In May 23, 1194, Pope Celestine III. renews his confirmation of the Furness Charter, possibly because some outcry had been raised against the election of Bishop Nicholas-Oliver's Mon. ii. 21. Dr. Oliver gives a receipt by Bishop Nicholas, on his return from the general council, of various pontifical utensils and vestments surrendered by Nicholas, Abbot of Furness, according to time will of Michael, his predecessor.-(Mon. ii. 38.) Now this document, if genuine, suggests strong doubts. There was only one abbot of Furness called Nicholas with the addition of Melsa or Meaux, who himself was then, or became subsequently, Bishop of Man yet here we have Nicholas the Bishop of Man, acknowledging the receipt of certain articles from Nicholas the abbot, so that, at that time, there most have been two persons of the name of Nicholas, the bishop and the abbot. Oliver (Mon ii. 38) dates this letter 1193, but it must have been after the general council held at the Lateran in 1215, which was attended also by Walter, Bishop of Glasgow, by Brice, Bishop of Moray, and Adam, Bishop of Caithness. Nicholas is said by the Chronicle to have died in 1217 and on the authority of a MS. of Brown Willis, West says that Nicholas de Meaux, 17th Abbot of Furness, was translated from the abbacy of Furness to the bishopric of the Sudreys in 1217, that is, after the death of the first Nicholas; for it is absurd to suppose, -with Hardy's Le Neve, that the Chronicle, by the word obiit, meant to record the resignation, not the death of Nicholas. Oliver refers to the year 1193, the letter of Olave II. to the dean and chapter of York about the consecration of Nicholas, to which the monks objected, whereas Nicholas in his letter (Mon. ii. 19,) says that he is the choice of the monks ; may it not, therefore, have referred to the consecration of the Abbot Nicholas at a later date? The Icelandic annals record the consecration of Coll, or Kolas, or Klaus, which is the same as Nicholas, in the year 1210. No doubt, by the bull of Anastasius the right of consecration belonged to Nidarós and not to York ; yet the issue of a brief in February 1205, by Pope Innocent III., in which the rights of Nidarós are set forth, would lead to the belief that these rights had been questioned or violated.

Nicholas was an Argyllshire man, and was first an Augustinian cannon of the Priory of Wartse, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, whence he went to the Cistercian Abbey of Meaux, situated about six miles north of Hull. In 1203 he presented King John, in the fourth year of his reign, with 40s., according to the Pipe Roll, as a deprecatory gift.-(Beck's Furness) In the Egerton copy of the Chronicle of Meaux by Thomas Burton, published under the authority of the Master of the Rolls, is the following notice, vol. i. p. 380 :-Ejus tempore (i.e. in the abbacy of Hugh) monachus quidem S. de nostra congregatione electus est in abbatem Fornasiensem, et postea in Episcopsum Sodorensem in Mania. (In his time a certain monk S., of our congregation, was elected Abbot of Furness, and afterwards Bishop of the Sodor diocese, in Man). This passage is wanting in Sir Thomas Phillipp's MS. The editor observes that the initial letter S., interlined in the MS., is clearly an error for N. ; adding that the Abbot of Furness, who because Bishop of Man, was Nicholas of Meaux. Now as Nicholas became Abbot of Furness during the abbacy at Meaux of Hugh, his appointment must have been between the years 1210-1220, the period of Hugh's abbacy, so that he could not have been elected to Man either in 1193 or 1203. In 1218, March 6, Henry III. of England warned Olave of Man not to extend his hand to the Abbey of Furness: can this have any reference to the subject of the letter to the dean and chapter of York, in which Olave tells them not to heed the clamour or complaints of the monks of Furness In 1224, May 15, Pope Honorius III. commissions the Archbishop of York -Walter de Gray- to examine the petition of Nicholas, seeking to be relieved from his bishopric, as the king and people were opposed to him, and to grant his request if he deemed it expedient.-(Mon. ii. 67. Stubbs applies this to Bishop John.) That his request was granted appears from the signature of Nicholas, as witness to a charter about Hexham, under Archbishop Walter de Gray in 1226, August 4,-Nicholas quoudans Manniae et Insularum Episcopus, (Nicholas, formerly Bishop of Man and the Isles), (Surtees Soc. h. 92.) ; and also in the same year, August 20, to a document about the Priory of Stainfield, in Lincolnshire, under the same archbishop. -Dug. Mon. vol. 1. 506, 1655, or new edition, vol. iv. 309, citing Dean and Gloucester Archives of York, folio 104.)

16 [Reginald was nephew to Kings Reginald and Olaf. Munch's reasoning from the appointment and consecration and burial of Reginald, will not hold for the reasons given in footnotes (a) p. 172, (5) 238, (a) 240, etc. Professor Stubbs thinks he was consecrated in Norway. Is he not the bishop consecrated by the Archbishop of Dublin, alluded to by Pope Honorius III., whom King Reginald forbade the clergy to receive, and whom he otherwise persecuted? See Appendix, No. 11. Cumming says that Reginald died in 1225. Hardy's Le Neve about 1226.]



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