[Fom Manx Soc vol 29]


IT has generally been admitted by those who have dug in the mine of antiquity, and have written on the early period of Manx ecclesiastical history, that St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, on his second return to that country was driven by a storm to the Isle of Man, A.D. 444, where, finding the people much given to magic, and the island enveloped in a typical mist under the influence of Mananan-beg-mac-y-Lheir, he remained there for three years, and was instrumental in their conversion to the Christian faith.

He took up his abode on a rocky islet on the west coast, called "Holm," and from thence known as "Holm Patrick," or "St. Patrick’s Isle," opposite the present town of Peel. Here he founded a church, dedicated to St. Patrick. On his departure he sent Germanus, the son of "Restitutus the Longobard," by Liomania, the sister of St. Patrick, as the first bishop, to rule over the church in Man, which he there founded about the year A.D. 447, and called after him "St. Germans."1

St. Germanus presided over the Church of Man till his death, which took place A.D. 474 2

Conindrius and Romulus, also disciples of St. Patrick, and consecrated by him, succeeded St. Germanus in the see. Romulus died A.D. 498; after whom, Maguil or Machaldus, also called Maughold, a native of Iveagh in Ulster, but belonging to the Hy Bairche, a bishop who was eminent for sanctity.’ He died A.D. 554, as is asserted by some writers. These four saints were the fathers and founders of the Church in Man.2

Their successors will be found in the list of bishops of Sodor and Man.

The Welsh line of kings ruled in the Isle of Man for about four centuries, having been led there by Maelgwyn, A.D. 525, where they engrafted many of their customs on the country. The last king of this line was Anarawd ap Roderic, who died A.D. 913. It is to the ecclesiastical annals of that country that we have to look for the succession of bishops during their dynasty, for there is a long wanting record after Contentus, Baldus, and Malchus, who are given at uncertain dates, until the days of the Danish line of kings of Man, when we find Brandon A.D. 1025. Roolwer is the first bishop, A.D. 1050, mentioned in the Chronicle of Man, where it is stated: "It is sufficient to have begun the account of the bishops from Roolwer, because we are entirely ignorant who or what were the bishops before Roolwer’s time, for we neither find any written documents on the subject nor have we any certain accounts handed down by our elders." 1 From this time we have a regular succession of bishops to the present prelate.

Round Tower, Peel
Round Tower, Peel Castle - from the East

The Round Tower on this islet, situated to the west of the ruins of St. Patrick’s Church, said to have been the earliest ecclesiastical edifice in the British Isles, and to have been erected by St. Patrick, is too important a feature to be omitted in this brief account of the Soclor Diocese. These towers have been the subject of endless speculation among antiquaries, as to their origin and use, but the investigations of Dr. Petrie have in a great measure shown there can be little doubt that they are the work of Christian architects, and were built for religious purposes. Numerous towers of this description are to be seen in Ireland, some of which are yet entire; also in Scotland—at Brechin, Abernethy, and in Orkney. Dr. Daniel Wilson is inclined to assign their erection to a period ranging from the 9th to the 12th centuries. They appear to have been in most cases attached to the immediate vicinity of a church or other ecclesiastical building, and from the nature of their structure they were capable of being used as strongholds, into which, in times of danger, the ecclesiastics and others could retreat with their valuables. From the frequent incursions of roving tribes at that early period, this style of structure was well adapted for defence and safety from the numerous attacks to which this island was, during several centuries, subjected.

The general features of the Round Tower in Peel Castle are much the same as those in Ireland. The entrance-door, facing the east, is 6 feet 9 inches from the ground to the bottom of the door, and the height of the doorway 5 feet 6 inches, wider at the bottom than at the spring of the arch, width at the floor 2 feet 3 inches. The circumference externally, near the base,. 44 feet 6 inches, the diameter internally, at the door, 5 feet 9 inches; the total height to the top of the parapet, 45 feet. It was formerly surmounted by a conical roof, which is to be seen in an old painting, about A.D. 1600, now in the possession of the Earl of Derby, at Knowsley. The interior was divided into storeys, the floors of wood, to which access was got by means of a ladder. There are four square-headed openings near the top, facing the cardinal points, and another lower down on the north-west, to give light to that floor. The oak beams supporting these floors were in existence during living memory. The stone steps leading up to the entrance-door are of a much later timne than the tower.

The Bishopric of the Isles was first instituted by Pope Gregory IV., in A.D. 840, and had jurisdiction over the Western Islands called the Hebrides, of which St. Mary’s, in Iona, was the Cathedral Church, and continued a separate see until A.D. 1098, when King Magnus of Norway conquered the Western Islands and also the Isle of Man, and united the Bishoprics of Man and the Isles. Man being the more ancient see by 393 years, therefore Iona could not claim primacy over Man.

After the union of the sees the bishops bear the title of "Sodor and Man," and sometimes "of the Isles." Wymund was the first bishop of the united sees. Roger of Wendover calls him the first bishop, meaning after the union with the See of Man and that of the Isles. This union of the sees lasted 235 years, until A.D. 1333.

We find by a Bull of Pope Anastasius IV., A.D. 1154, he established the province of Drontheim in Norway as Metropolitan, which included the Bishopric of the Isles and of Man.’

 A.D. 1266, July 2. By a convention between their Majesties Alexander IlL of Scotland, and Magnus IV. of Norway, the cession of Man by Norway was made to Scotland.2 The Orkneys and Shetland were expressly excepted, so as not to deprive the Norwegian archbishop of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction and Metropolitan rights over Man and the Isles.’

A.D. 1333, William Montague conquered the Island of Man from the Scots, and afterwards sold it, and becoming forfeit to Henry IV. 1399, since which time it has remained in the Crown of England or their nominees.

After the English possessed themselves of the Island, the Scotch bishops being elected by their own kings ceased to use the title of "Sodor," and were called "of the Isles." The Manx bishops continued to use the title, "Sodor and Man."

A.D. 1458, 11th July. A bull of Pope Calistus united the Church of Sodor, Isle of Man, to that of York, in the episcopate of Thomas of Kirkham.2

A.n. 1542, 33 Henry VIII. By an Act of the imperial Parliament the diocese of Man, in the Isle of Man, was placed under the metropolitian jurisdiction of York, which was again confirmed by an Act 8 James II 3

The name of " Sodor" has been a vexed question with many writers on. the ecclesiastical history of the Isle of Man, and has been left generally to conjecture. It would appear there are two places that have gone for centuries under that name, one in the small isle of lona, and the other in St. Patrick’s Isle at Peel. The latter was formerly called "St. Patrick’s Isle," because St. Patrick for some length of time, as is recorded, resided there. In various documents that are extant, this rocky islet, containing an area of about five acres, and formerly entirely surrounded by the sea, thereby rendering it particularly safe from any encroachment from the mainland, has been called "Sodor." In the bull of Pope Calistus, A.D. 1458, before alluded to, it is called The Cathedral Church of Sodor in Man." In a confirmation of churches and lands by Thomas, Earl of Derby, to Huan, Bishop of Sodor, 28th March 1505, it is there called "Sodor" or "Holme Sodor vel Pele." This is now 373 years ago, and it is to be presumed there was a good reason and authority for calling it " Sodor" in that document.’

And again in A.D. 1570, 29th September, upon the appointment by Queen Elizabeth of John Salisbury as Bishop of "Sodor, or of the Island of Man." 2

Camden says, "the bishop was named Sodorensis from a little island near Castletown, in the Isle of Man, where the Episcopal see was instituted," but this is evidently a mistake for Feel, as he never visited the Isle of Man.

Other instances are given of the mention of the Sodor diocese from documents transcribed by Professor Munch from the archives of the Vatican at Rome, and translated into English by Dr. Goss, and printed in his edition of The Chronicle of Man, in the Manx Society’s Series, vols. xxii. and xxiii. which may be briefly noticed as follows

Document, No. 23, dated 14th March A.D. 1253, being a bull from Pope "Innocent IV. to the chapter of the Sodor Diocese," notifying the consecration of Bishop Richard to the Church of the Sodor Diocese.

"In like manner, To the Clergy of the Sodor (Cathedral) City, and of the Sodor Diocese."

"In like manner, To the People of the Sodor City and Diocese." Vol. xx~i. pp. 315-16.

Document, No. 29, 27th April A.D. 1349.

Notification from Clement VI. to William, Bishop elect of the Sodor Diocese, appointing him to be Bishop of "the Sodor Church," etc.

"In like manner, To our beloved Sons the Clergy of the Sodor Cathedral City and Diocese."

"In like manner, To our beloved Sons the People of the said Sodor Cathedral City and Diocese." Vol. xxiii. p. 336.

The same language is used in a number of similar notifications and documents, the questions are—

1. What constituted the Sodor Diocese and Sodor Church?

2. What was meant by the Sodor Cathedral City?

3. What by the People of the Sodor Cathedral City and Diocese?

4. And what by the Clergy of the Sodor Cathedral City and Diocese?

To these questions the following answers are suggested—

1. That the "Sodor Diocese" comprised not only Man but the southern of the western islands of Scotland, being termed the Sudreys, down to a certain period, as before stated.

2. That the "Sodor Cathedral City" clearly pointed to; and could only mean what is now called, the Town of Peel.

3. That the "People of the Cathedral City" means the inhabitants of Peel.

4. And that the "Clergy of the Sodor Cathedral City and Diocese" would be the Chapter of the Church, as named in Bull of 14th March 1253, No. 23, before given.

It may be observed that in some of the documents quoted Sodor is expressly named as being in the Isle of Man.

The style and title of the Bishop, by which he is now inducted, is "Bishop of Man, of Sodor, of Sodor and Man, and of Sodor of Man."

With respect to the Cathedral of St. Germans it has been before stated that it was founded by Germanus, time first Bishop, in A.D. 447, but as to its extent or style of architecture there is no record. Some 700 years after that period it is stated to. the north, east, and south, commanding a full view to the entrance of the harbour.

The access to the top of the central tower of the Cathedral ‘was cibai’ed, and the steps in the turret thoroughly repaired ; the total height of the tower to the parapet wall on the top is 68 feet, the number of steps being 74. Above this, and approachable by 8 steps from the outside, is the belfry, tower, the top of which is now 83 feet from the floor. . .

Upon opening out some of the pillars and arches in the nave it was found that a south aisle had formerly existed, the walls of which stood. at a distance of 9 feet 3, inches in the cleat from the south, this being the full breadth of the aisle.

In the, courtyard of the Bishop’s. palace was discovered a well completely filled up with rubbish, which, on being removed, a flue spring of water issued Out of the rock; to this a pump ii now attached. The covered well near the sallyport on the north-east, and. this near the palace, afforded ample supplies of water at all seasons to the garrison, as well as to the numerous people who in former days resided here; and although the islet is surrounded by the sea, from its elevation the water is perfectly pure.

These, with many other details, have been brought to light by the removal of’ the debris of ‘ages, so as to clear the way. for further progress. . .in 1874 a ,small toll was, by order of the Lieutenant-Governor,: established during a portion of .the year on all persons visiting Peel Castle, with: the object of providing a fund out of which the ruins may be kept in repair. The total expenditure for this purpose from the year 1867 until. 1876, inclusive; has been £871 13 4.

In 1877 it was considered advisable to call in the aid of a professional’ architect in order that the further repairs should be carried out in conformity with the original design of the Cathedral. The services of Robert Anderson, Esq. of Edinburgh, a gentleman who has bestowed much time and study upon the preservation of similar works, were engaged. He accordingly prepared plans, and commenced work during that year in replacing such defective portions as required his immediate attention, with the view to the ultimate restoration of the Cathedral if such should hereafter be deemed desirable. These repairs are now in course of being carried out, in the hope that sufficient funds will be provided in order to bring the work to a successful termimiation.

Of the interment of Bishops within the walls of the Cathedral of St. Germans we have no record of any until we come to—

John, who died . . A.D. 1154
Simon, died 28th February . ,, 1247
Mark, died . . . ,, 1299
Huan Hesketh, died . . ,, 1532
John Phillips, died 7th August ,, 1633
Richard Parr, died 23d March ,, 1643

At his own express desire he was buried in the same grave with Bishop Phillips. This fact is recorded in the Ballaugh Register Book of Burials.

Samuel Rutter, died 30th May A.D. 1662.

The remains of Bishop Simon and Samuel Rutter can only at this day be pointed out.

Wymnund or Reymundus by some writers is said to have been interred in the Cathedral here; but Mr. Skene says he retired to the Monastery of Biland, in Yorkshire, after his eyes were put out, and was living in 1157, and was probably buried there.

A.D. ‘1722. An occurrence took place in this year in which the question of the right of the inhabitants of German to the use of the Cathedral as a place of burial was incidentally raised. The circumstances were as follows :— Captain Alexander Horne was at the time Governor of the Island, and was notoriously at enmity with Bishop Wilson, and opposed him in every possible way.

The office of Constable of Peel Castle was held by a Captain William Mercer. This official (doubtless acting under the orders of the Governor) having refused to permit the interment of one or two of the inhabitants, without the permission of the Governor, the hey. Matthias Curphey, Vicar of the two parishes of Patrick and German, represented the matter to Bishop Wilson. The latter thereupon addressed the following characteristic letter to the Constable of the Castle:

"Bishops’ Court, October 9th, 1722.

"Captain Mercer—Complaint is made to me you have refused to let the body of Isabel Cannon to be buryed in the Parish Church of Kk. German and the place where her child is buryed, unless her ffriends shall first obtain lycence from the Govr so to do. You would do well to consider this is the first instance of such a practice, and will be a new invasion of the Churche’s rights and the subjects’ property, for if a lycence must be asked, it may be refused, and then the Bishop may be shut out from his Cathedral, and the People from their Parish Church, for such it was before ever it was a Garrison.

"I think fit to give you this hint you may not create new trouble to yourself or me.—I am, your Friend,


The above letter, which is on record, is given in Keble’s Life of Bishop Wilson, pt. ii., p. 542.

Burials have been frequent in the Cathedral, and occasionally take place to the present day.

Notwithstanding the ruinous state of the Cathedral, marriages were occasionally solemnised in it up to the middle of the last century.

1753, September 27. The last recorded marriage took place on this day, the entry in the German Parish Registry being in the following words :— Thursday, September 27. Mr. Edward Trevor, a Protestant, from Longbrick-land, in the kingdom of Ireland, was married in time Cathedral of St. German to Miss Mary Savage, born and haptised in Douglas, but now a Roman Catholic resident in Ireland. N.B.—Dispensation was given for their marriage upon time request of the Honbl John Murray, Esq., nephew to His Grace the Duke of Athol."

1755, August 6. Bishop Hilciesley was this day installed, as his biographer says, "amidst the old and venerable ruins of St. Germans Cathedral."—Butler’s Memoirs of Hildesley.

Some remains of the stained glass formerly belonging to the Cathedral were long in the possession of Bishop Cregan, to whom the Bishop of Drontheim sent them from Norway, and which the Bishop left with the late John M’Hutchin, Clerk of the Rolls; they are now in possession of S,r James Gell, Castletown. One portion consisted of the trie cassyn, or Legs of Man, a plate of which is given in Oswald’s Vestigia, Manx Society’s Series, vol. V. A photograph was also taken from it, full size, by the late James Burman, for the Peel Castle Preservation Fund in 1859.

Crypt under the Cathedral of St German's
Crypt under the Cathedral of St German's

The entrance to the crypt beneath the chancel is through a narrow doorway on the south side of the chancel, down a flight of steps, the passage being in the thickness of the south wall. It is 34 feet long and 16 feet broad, having a curious rilbbed roof, barrel-vaulted, with thirteen diagonal ribs placed very near to each other, of one chamfered order, springing from the same number of short pilasters on either side, standing on the solid rock, which, from the slanting of the floor from west to east, shows a slight irregularity in the height of the pilasters.

In clearing out the debris in the year 1871, a rudely arched doorway, 6½ feet high by 5 feet wide, leading to the rock outside the castle walls, and immediately under the east windows of the chancel, was discovered; also a loophole, 3 feet in length by 6 inches in width, and splayed to the extent of 4 feet, evidently intended to afford light to the interior, was opened; also a third doorway, on the north side, 2 feet 4 inches wide, arched with red sandstone, with jambs to correspond, together with the remains of a flight of steps leading into a small enclosure or yard abutting upon the north wall of the chancel and a portion of the bishop’s palace. It was in this confined space that the Duchess of Gloucester is said to have taken her daily exercise during the time she was imprisoned here, having only the sky overhead to gaze upon.

Mr. Anderson of Edinburgh is of opinion that the crypt was not part of the work of Bishop Simon, and that its construction led to the raising of the chancel floor to its present level. There is no evidence to show what the original crypt was, if any such existed.

The crypt was for centuries used as the General Prison of the Island for offenders against the Ecclesiastical Laws, and was sometimes styled in the Records as "St. Germans Prison." "The Bishop his Prison." Hundreds of persons of all classes have been confined here. Foremost may be named Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, A.D. 1441. She is said to have lived in it for fourteen years.

During the 17th century, particularly between 1662 and 1666, when a bitter persecution was raging against the Quakers, a great number of males and females belonging to that sect were imprisoned, some for several weeks. Their sufferings and privations are described at length in Gough’s History of the Quakers, 1789, vol. ii. p. 274, etc.

So far as Records show, the last offender imprisoned in it was one Thomas Kneale who had been sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment for fornication. In his petition to Vicar-General Evan Christian for release, he set forth that "He was too weak a constitution to endure the severity of the cold prison." He was liberated on the 4th March 1780, upon giving security for his future good conduct, etc.—Proceedings in Episcopal Registry.

The Bishop’s palace, called Bishops’ Court, is in the parish of Michael, a portion of which, called "Orrys Tower," is very ancient, and was formerly surrounded by a ditch. It was occupied by Bishop Simon in 1230. BishopWilson made substantial improvements to the house and grounds, while Bishop Murray rebuilt the Chapel, which was again rebuilt by Bishop Powys in 1858, as also considerable additions to the Palace.

The arms of the Bishopric are, Gules, the Virgin Mary standing on three ascents, with her arms extended between two pillars, supporting on the dexter a Church, all proper. In base, the Arms of the Island (three legs), surmounted by a mitre.

The living is in the gift of the Crown; tithe value

1839 . . . . . £1515 0 0

The glebe is considerable, being in

Ballaugh . 29 acres, value £28 17 6

Ballaugh Domain . 365 ,, ,, 586 1 11

Michael Domain . 245 ,, ,, 498

— 1112 19 5

639 acres . . £2,627 19 5

With sundry rents, customs, fines, etc., about £50 per annum.

In the year 1876 the Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man applied to obtain the consent of the Crown for the introduction of a bill into the Insular Legislature to make provision that any future appointment to the Bishopric of Sodor and Man shall be subject to such measures as may be enacted by the Tynwald for the re-arrangement of the episcopal revenues, and the application of part of such revenues for the augmentation of livings in the Island, and for other purposes. Upon this matter being submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown, they were of opinion that the Insular Legislature have not the power, even with the consent of the Crown, to pass such a measure, but that it would require the sanction of an Act of the Imperial Legislature.

On this opinion Sir James Gell, Attorney-General of the Isle of Man, submitted the following statement for the consideration of the Attorney and Solicitor General of England. As this statement enters so fully into matters connected with the Diocese of Sodor and Man it is here given, with the addition of a few Notes, showing where the authorities mentioned can easily be referred to.



1 Archbishop Ussher ; also Jocelinus in Vitae Patricii ; and also the Killcenny Archaeological Journal," 1875. By the Rev. J. F. Shearman, p. 410-413.

2 Some curious details are to be met with of another Germanus of Amorica, in Cambrian hagiology, about this time which are worthy of investigation, and might lead to a more extended knowledge connected with the early history of St. Patrick.

3 His history is recorded in Jocelyn, cap. 152. 

4 Vale, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, vol. v., 1869. 

5 Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys. Edited by Dr. Goss. Manx Series, vol. xxii. p. 115.  

6 The particulars which led to this appointment are given in vol. xxii. of the Manx Society’s Series, pp. 171.2, as also the Bull of Anastasius IV., in vol. xxiii. of the same series, pp. 274-284.

 7 Printed in the Manx Society’s Series, vol. xxiii. pp. 323-333, and vol. ix. pp. 210-217.  

8 Printed in the Manx Society’s Series, vol. xxii. p. 228.

9 Ibid., vol. ix. pp. 20.23.

10 This Act is printed in the Manx Society’s Series, vol. xviii. pp. 107-110. 

11 Printed in the Manx Society’s Series, vol. ix. pp. 27.31 ; and again in vol. xviii. pp. 70-72.

12 Manx Society’s Series, vol. ix. pp. 53-57.


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