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Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae Occidentalis ab initio usque ad annum MCXCVIII, Series 6, Britannia, Scotia et Hibernia, Scandinavia, Tomus 1 Eclesia Scotiana.

Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae Occidentalis ab initio usque ad annum MCXCVIII; Series VI Britannia, Scotia et Hibernia, Scandinavia, Tomus 1 Ecclesia Scoticana, general editors Odilo Engels and Stefan Weinfurter with cooperation of H. Kluger, edited by D.E.R. Watt with contribution by B.E. Crawford. Stuttgart, Anton Hiersemann, 1991. xii, 91 pp.

This ambitious project seeks to catalogue bishops of the western church from the earliest times to the pontificate of Innocent III, a volume being devoted to each metropolitan area. Scotland is unusual in certain respects and strictly speaking cannot be accommodated within such a plan. After the Norman Conquest the archibishops of York, being anxious to acquire authority over sufficient sees to validate their claim to be a separate province in no way subject to Canterbury, sought to expand their metropolitan jurisdiction in the northern kingdom. Although in 1192 the Ecclesia Scoticana gained exemption as a filia specialis of the apostolic see, Galloway (Candida Casa or Whithorn) continued in subjection to York, while Orkney and the Isles were politically and ecclesiastically subject to the Norwegians. The see of Caithness owed allegiance successively to the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, Lund, and finally to the newly founded Norwegian archbishopric of Trondheim. Sensibly Galloway is included here, and this accords with the Liber Censuum which towards the end of the twelfth century enumerated it as the eleventh of Scotia's bishoprics. A further "irregularity" arises from the fact that there was no metropolitan see until St. Andrews became such in 1472, followed shortly afterwards by Glasgow. Admittedly the bishop of St. Andrews, often entitled Episcopus Scotorum, had an undefined claim to superiority and attempts had been made to elevate the see to provincial status.

The Ecclesia Scoticana has been a Cinderella compared to its neighbour the Ecclesia Anglicana. This is due partly to the relative paucity of sources, particularly the lack (in the later Middle Ages) of episcopal registers -- despite recent invaluable work in making available material from the Vatican collections. Other determining factors have been its comparative poverty and its somewhat remote geographical position vis a vis the western church of the Middle Ages. Recently, however, thanks to the researches of Gordon Donaldson, Ian Cowan, Annie Dunlop, Donald Watt, and many others we can be more appreciative of the Scottish church's organization, its personnel and the part it played in political and social life at home and in the church at large.

Until now most historians have had to rely for the Scottish episcopate on the lists in the third edition (1986) of the Handbook of British Chronology, without the benefit of references. The present work supersedes all previous ones, though Dowden's Bishops of Scotland (1912) remains useful. There is an ample bibliography and extensive footnoting with many caveats about previous assumptions. Contrary to regular practice this volume is in English instead of Latin, apart from the names of individual bishops -- rather odd this. It begins with a foreword by the general editors followed by a brief historical introduction to the Scottish church. Christianity, we are told, reached Scotland some time about 400. Approximately a century later there were four principal political units: British Strathclyde, Anglian Northumbria which stretched as far as the Forth, the Pictish kingdom to the north and east, and lastly, the Scottish (Irish) kingdom of Dalriada in the west. Only towards the end of the twelfth century does the succession of bishops become reasonably clear, by which time we find the eleven sees of the Liber Censuum. Even in the mid-twelfth century a measure of obscurity is demonstrated by the fact that an "Angerius Brito" earlier listed as a "possible first holder" of the see of Caithness (Catanensis) was in fact bishop of Catania! (p.29 n.5).

The pattern adopted is to examine the fourteen known sees. Three of them -- Mortlach, Abernethy, and Abercorn -- had a somewhat shadowy existence; their entries are in square brackets. Mortlach, for which four named bishops are recorded, one of them questionable, was eventually subsumed in Aberdeen; Abernethy according to the fifteenth-century continuator Bower was at one time the seat of the sole bishop of the Pictish kingdom, but no named bishops can be identified and it became an area within Dunblane; Abercorn, an early ecclesiastical centre, may not have survived the Pictish defeat of the Angles at Nechtansmere (685). Where possible the entry for each diocese is subdivided into Patrocinium (patron saint), Historia (ascertainable development), Fines (boundaries so far as they can be determined), Tabulae (maps and lists), Fontes (original sources), Litterae (secondary works) and finally Series Episcoporum (dates and short biographies of all known bishops). This is a convenient format which lends itself to easy consultation, although the reviewer often felt the need of a subject index to enable him, for instance, to collate matters such as early references to archdeacons, the attempts of York to enforce its supremacy, the incidence of "regular" as opposed to "secular" bishops or of disputed elections. Indexing the frequency of royal, papal or baronial involvement in such elections would also be a desideratum. Clearly, however, the series restricts its editors to cross-referencing within the text.

Although by nature a list, the book provides information about every aspect of the church in Scotland. Dunblane, for example, has no known bishops prior to 1155; tradition suggests that the succession had lapsed in the tenth century only to be revived some hundred years later. The property of the see had been usurped by laity and it had to be re-endowed. Even in the 1230s there was no usable cathedral church at Dunblane or clergy to serve one. Elections, it is suggested, were still "in the hands of a diocese-wide chapter of the synod type." The earls of Strathearn came to act as patrons rather than the king, and Symon and Jonathas in the late twelfth century sometimes styled themselves bishop of Strathearn. The most notable conflict was that between Johannes Scotus and Hugo, claimants to the bishopric of St Andrews. Johannes was elected by the chapter but King William pressed the candidature of one of his chaplains, Hugo, and forced his consecration. The papal legate deposed Hugo and with the support of four bishops, a fifth consenting in writing, Johannes was consecrated. Forced to flee by the angry William, he sought refuge with Henry II, the English king. Three years later Lucius III recognized Hugo and moved Johannes to Dunkeld. But Johannes did not relinquish his claim and in 1188 yet another pope deposed Hugo and the St. Andrews chapter was pressed to elect his rival. The king remained adamant; Johannes had to be content with the pis aller of Dunkeld, but with additional income from St. Andrews. The situation at St. Andrews was scarcely better under Hugo's successor, Rogerus, a royal appointee, probably under age, who stayed unconsecrated for almost nine years.

In short, this is an invaluable reference work, well researched and replete with interesting detail. One minor reservation is the lurid binding with its aggressively large type!
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Author:Haines, Roy Martin
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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