Thomas de Rossy, Bishop of Sodor (1331-1348)

Thomas de Rossy who became bishop of Sodor in 1331 is an interesting case for us because he was the first bishop of that diocese to be directly appointed by the Pope and his appointment coincided with an attempt by clergy from the northern islands of the diocese to elect their own candidate as bishop. Thomas de Rossy was appointed to the bishopric of Sodor on 10 June 1331 by Pope John XXII (1316-1334) in Avignon. The letter of provision described him as a canon of Dunkeld, priest and papal chaplain. He was, according to the Chronicle of Man, ‘a Scotsman by birth’.[1] The letter of provision is the first reference we have to Thomas. However, fortunately, we are able to say quite a bit more about his origins and career prior to his promotion to the bishopric. He was not only a canon of Dunkeld, but he also held the church of Idvies, near Letham just to the west of Forfar, in the deanery of Angus in the diocese of St Andrews. He seems to have held this church for quite a while after his consecration as bishop of Sodor because it was only in April 1346 that another cleric was provided to it.[2]  The church of Idvies, which was first recorded in 1243 when Bishop David de Bernham dedicated it, may have been in the patronage of the bishops of St Andrews.[3] It was a fairly wealthy church, valued at 12 merks sterling annually in 1366, which would have been attractive to well-connected clerics.

 

bl-cotton-ms-julius-a-vii-f-51v-thomas-de-rossy

The entry on Bishop Thomas in the Chronicle of Man (BL Cotton MS Julius A VII f.51v)

 

Thomas de Rossy was indeed a cleric with good local connections in eastern Scotland. His surname indicates that he belonged to a family from Angus which had lands at Rossie on the southern side of the Montrose basin. In 1246, Thomas de Rossie, son of Robert de Rossie, had been granted the lands of Rossie by Hugo Malherbe. These holdings had been increased in March 1327 when King Robert I granted Henry Rossie, the lands of Inrony or ‘Inyoney’ in Angus. These lands, probably identifiable as ‘Anany’, lay just to the north of Rossie. The church of Idvies was approximately nine miles to the south-west of Rossie. Thomas’s ties to eastern Scotland, rather than the west, were only accentuated by his choice of burial place, Scone Abbey in the diocese of Dunkeld.

 

Thomas de Rossy’s other important role was as a papal chaplain. He was listed as an honorary papal chaplain in a document, Instrumenta Miscellanea 5827, listing those individuals who served as honorary papal chaplains during the Avignon papacy. Honorary papal chaplains received no financial remuneration, but had significant privileges and exemptions such as no longer being subject to the authority of their bishop. Thomas de Rossy was one of 431 chaplains appointed by Pope John XXII during his eighteen-year reign. His provision as bishop of Sodor was almost certainly as a result of his presence in Avignon; he was in the right place at the right time.

 

Thomas de Rossy seems to have been eventually accepted in the diocese, despite an attempt in the same year by the clergy of Skye and canons of Snizort to elect the archdeacon of Sodor, Cormac, as bishop.[4]  His reign lasted 17 years until his death on 20 September 1348. How popular he was is another matter given that the Chronicle of Man noted that he was ‘the first to exact from the rectors (of benefices) of the aforementioned island [Man] tithes of all other (fish) from the herring fishery’.[5] He maintained his connections to the papal court; an English safe conduct of December 1340 recorded that he was en route to the papacy.[6]

 

Thomas was a different type of candidate than his immediate predecessors as bishops of Sodor and his successor. For him papal connections were most important and unlike the previous bishop Bernard, Thomas had no identifiable royal support. And despite his lack of prior connections to the diocese, he did not use it as a stepping stone to another diocese, instead having a long reign as bishop and dying in office.

[1] Cronica Regum Mannie et Insularum: The Chronicle of the Kings of Man and the Isles, trans. George Broderick (Douglas, 1996) f.51v.

[2] GUS, Collectorie 282 f.193r.

[3] http://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/corpusofscottishchurches/site.php?id=158694 (accessed 13/10/2016).

[4] S.E. Thomas, ‘Rival bishops, rival cathedrals: the election of Cormac, archdeacon of Sodor, as bishop in 1331’, The Innes Review 60:2 (2009) 145-163.

[5] CM(B) f.51v

[6] Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (London, 1901-) vol.5 76.

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One thought on “Thomas de Rossy, Bishop of Sodor (1331-1348)

  1. Pingback: Thomas de Rossy, Bishop of Sodor (1331-1348) | fofmd

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