Before the appointment of Bishop Brice de Douglas in 1203 the earlier bishops of Moray are said to have had no fixed see and to have been, in fact, rural bishops who exercised their Episcopal functions wherever they happened to be rather than over any fixed geographical area. They used, as best suited them, one of the three churches of Birnie, Spynie and Kineddar, all of which are in the vicinity of the Royal City of Elgin.

In terms of a papal mandate of April 1206, Bishop de Douglas established his see with a community of eight canons at Spynie at some date between March 1207 and June 1208 and used the statutes of Lincoln cathedral as his blueprint. Bricius had sent Andrew de Moravia (later to succeed him as Bishop) to Lincoln to borrow the constitutions of the Chapter of Lincoln and it is obvious from his later actions that Andrew became fully conversant with the ways of this mighty English Cathedral. It is said that at a later date the chapter of Lincoln had to send to Moray to get a copy of their own original statutes!

In terms of a further papal mandate of 10 April 1224, Bishop Andrew de Moravia transferred the see to Elgin itself on 19 July 1224 and enlarged the chapter of canons to eighteen (5 May 1226) and to twenty-three before the end of his episcopate in 1242.

Unlike the dioceses of Ross and Caithness, the diocese of Moray was not coterminous with the earldom. Indeed, when one considers a map of the diocese, it can be seen that the bishopric extended somewhat to the east of the River Spey, beyond the earldom, whilst in the south west, the earldom extended further, touching the sea at Loch Linnhe and the Knoydart peninsula.

The foundation of the Diocese was as much (if not more) a political act as an ecclesiastical one. Crown and mitre were hand in hand in the foundation of the High Church of Moray, and their association in the work was due to a complete identity of political motive. In the Thirteenth century Scotland, as we know it now, scarcely existed. In no sense of the word was there a Scottish nation - but the desire to unify was the prime motivating force for the King. By establishing a Diocese the Crown was able to extend and deepen its influence over this wild northern Province.


Diocese of Moray pages were last updated on: 09 October 2005
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