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The History of Glasgow
Chapter VII - Diocese of Glasgow


WITH regard to the extent of the kingdom of Cumbria, a -chronicler of the year 1o69, in the early part of the third King Malcolm's reign, states that it included the three bishoprics of Glasgow, Candida Casa and Carlisle. Both sides of the Solway, as well as the Galloway district, were thus at that time comprehended within the kingdom; but, according to the Saxon Chronicle, William Rufus, in 1092, went with a large army to Carlisle and wrested from Malcolm the district south of the Solway. [St. Kentigern, pp. 333-4; Dr. G. Neilson's Annals of the Solway, p. 36.]

At what time the diocese, which originally extended from the Clyde district to the Derwent in Cumberland, was split into two, with the Solway as the dividing line, is not definitely known, but such seems to have been the position about the middle of the eleventh century. The Cumbrian region, however, still continued to be viewed as a whole, and Joceline uses the term in that sense, though the name of Cumberland began to be exclusively appropriated by the southern parts. Of the existence of Bishops of Glasgow during the eleventh century, any statements in the chronicles are rather vague and some are of doubtful authority. According to one account, Thomas, Archbishop of York, between 1109 and 1114, ordained "a holy man, Michael," as Bishop of Glasgow, and on the authority of "truthful men" it is also stated that Kinsi, who was archbishop between 1055 and 1060, had consecrated his predecessors, Magsula and John, the only other bishops, besides Sedulius, of whom there is any mention between the time of St. Kentigern and the twelfth century. "But," adds the chronicler, "because of hostile invasion and desolation and the barbarity of the land, for long the church was without a pastor, until Earl David (afterwards King of Scotland) appointed, as bishop, Michael aforesaid, and sent him over to be consecrated by Archbishop Thomas." Though Michael's name is mentioned only by English historians and does not appear in Scottish record, there seems to be little doubt of his existence, at least as a titular Bishop of Glasgow. He died and was buried in Westmoreland, and as he acted as an assistant bishop at York his personal connection with Glasgow was, probably of the slightest. That he was consecrated by the Archbishop of York, at Earl David's desire, is improbable, the claim for canonical obedience, either to Canterbury or York, having been so constantly disputed by Scottish rulers. Of Magsula and John no reliable information is procurable, and it is suspected that their names are chronicled merely in support of the claim of the Archbishops of York to supremacy over the Scottish sees. [St. Kentigern, p. xcii; Scottish Annals, pp. 133-4 ; Dowden's Bishops, p 294-5.]

Of John, the next Bishop of Glasgow, a monk who has the reputation of being a learned and worthy man, there are fuller and more authentic particulars. Formerly tutor to Earl David, he was consecrated Bishop of Glasgow prior to izi8. In a letter by Pope Calixtus II. to the bishop, in 1122, it is stated that he had been elected by the chapter of the church of York and at their request had been consecrated by the former Pope, and he was therefore enjoined to render obedience to the Archbishop of York. Neither this command nor a repeated order in the same year and to the like effect was complied with; and here it may be added, as showing the persistency on both sides, that a similar request by Pope Innocent II., in 1131, was also ignored. John, having been suspended in 1122, left his diocese, intending to visit Rome and Jerusalem, but he was compelled to return to Glasgow in the following year. From a subsequent absence he was similarly recalled in 1138. [ Bishops of Scotland, pp. 295-6.]

Most of the high officers of State, in early times, were churchmen, and in the exercise of these functions Glasgow ecclesiastics had their full share. In an undated charter by King David to the Abbey of Dunfermline, believed to be granted about the year 1130, John, designated bishop and chancellor, is one of the witnesses. The chancellor was the King's adviser in all legal matters, acting as his assessor in courts of justice, while the King still held them in person, and he was also usually keeper of the Great Seal. [Reg. de Dunferrnlyn, No. 12 ; Early Scottish Charters, pp. 74, 336.]

It must have been about the time of John's instalment that the reconstitution of the Bishopric of Glasgow was accomplished. One of the durable acts of King David's administration was the establishment of a diocese co-extensive with his Cumbrian territory, and shortly after that the bishop entered on his duties. About the same time David caused an official inquiry to be made concerning the possessions of the church, and the result was set forth in a document, a copy of which, in what is supposed to be twelfth century handwriting, is engrossed in the ancient Register of the Bishopric. In a preliminary narrative the founding of the church as the see of the "bishop of Cumbria," ["Cumbria," as applicable to this early period, is erroneous, but the slip was natural to a twelfth century narrator. ] the reception of St. Kentigern as bishop, and the flourishing condition of the holy faith throughout the district, are referred to; but in course of time evil influences prevailed, whereby the church and its possessions were destroyed, the former inhabitants were driven into exile, and tribes of different nations poured in and possessed the desolated territory. Different in race, unlike in language and not agreeing among themselves, these intruders clung to heathenism rather than the worship of the Faith.

At last, in the time of Henry, King of England, while Alexander, King of the Scots, was reigning in Scotia, God sent to the people David, brother german of the Scots King, to be their prince and leader, "to correct their shameless and wicked vices and curb their insolent pride." Towards this purpose David, by the aid of his nobles and clergy, chose as bishop, John, "a religious man who had educated him and had vowed not without effect that his life should be devoted to God." Unwilling to accept the charge, on account of the savage state of the unhappy people, John was consecrated by Pope Paschal against his will, but being accepted by the inhabitants and welcomed by the prince and nobles of the kingdom, he assumed the charge and succeeded in spreading abroad the Gospel throughout the Cumbrian diocese.

It is then related that David, chiefly from love to God, but partly through exhortation of the bishop, caused inquiry to be made concerning the lands pertaining to the church of Glasgow, in each of the provinces of Cumbria which were under his dominion and rule, "for he did not rule over the whole of Cumbria," [See preceding note.] so that there might be left to future generations a certification of those possessions which "of old" the church had held. Accordingly, by the help and counsel of the old and wise men of all Cumbria, and on the oath of four persons who are named, three of them being designated "judges in Cumbria," a list of the church's possessions, so far as these could be ascertained, was compiled. [Reg. Episc. No. i ; Inquisicio, with translation printed in Scots Lore, pp. 38-41.] Like many other church lands throughout the country at that time some of the lands contained in the list had probably passed into the hands of laymen, but if so they must to a large extent have been restored, as most of those specified can be identified among the possessions of the bishopric at a later date.

From the form of the document narrating the investigation and its result, it may be assumed that the first part of the procedure consisted in a supplication to Prince David, prepared by Bishop John, with the assistance of clerics associated with him in the reorganization of the restored see and well versed in such historical matter as was obtainable from the Annals and Chronicles then extant. On such an application a breve or order for inquiry and the gathering of evidence from the "old and wise men" throughout the several districts would naturally follow, and the scribe whose duty it was to record the verdict has summarized the statements contained in the writings placed before him as well as the result of the inquiry. It has been surmised that both the compiler of the original document and the transcriber who engrossed it in the register may have been imported clerics not familiar with the names of the churches and lands reported as belonging to the see, and that this may partly account for the difficulty now experienced in their complete identification, especially in the vicinity of Glasgow. Less difficulty is encountered in recognizing the recorded names of places in the shires of Dumfries, Selkirk, Roxburgh and Peebles, and in the landward parts of Lanarkshire, all of vital importance to the local historian.


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