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Saint Andrews and Edinburgh

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The exact date of the foundation of the See of St. Andrews is, like any others in the earliest history of the Scottish Church, difficult, if not impossible, to fix. That there were bishops in the country now called Scotland, and exercising jurisdiction in the district where the city of St. Andrews afterwards arose, as early as the eighth or ninth century, is practically certain. We may, however, take 908, the year of the famous assembly at the Moot hill of Scene, as that in which a Bishop of St. Andrews (Cellach) first appears in history, vowing, in association with the king (Constantine), to "protect the laws and discipline of the Faith, and the rights of the churches and of the Gospel". In the two most ancient and authentic lists that have come down to us, those given by Wyntoun, Prior of Lochleven, and by Bower of Inchcolm in his "Scotichronicon", Cellach is called the first Bishop of St. Andrews. For two centuries the bishops bore Celtic names — Fothad, Maelbrigd, Maelduin, and the like. The death of Fothad II (1093) marks the close of the first period of the history of the see, of which scanty records and still scantier material traces remain. The English influence on Scottish national life, both ecclesiastical and civil, which followed the marriage of St. Margaret, great-niece of Edward the Confessor, to the King of Scots in 1069, had as one of its results the nomination of Turgot (Margaret's former confessor) to the See of St. Andrews. He was succeeded by Eadmer, a Benedictine monk of Canterbury; and Eadmer by Robert, a canon regular of St. Augustine, who founded at St. Andrews in 1144 the cathedral priory for canons of his own order.

It was his successor Arnold who began, at the eastern end, the construction of the magnificent cathedral, the building of which occupied more than a century and a half. Meanwhile the bishops of St. Andrews, although they claimed and exercised (as their Celtic predecessors had done) the right of presiding at all assemblies of the Scottish clergy, had never been formally granted the ecclesiastical primacy: indeed in 1225 their position was seriously affected by a Bull of Honorius III, enjoining that future synods were to be presided over by one of the bishops, styled the Conservator, to be elected by his brother prelates. This arrangement, which of course deprived the bishops of St. Andrews of their quasi-primatial jurisdiction, remained in force until the subsequent erection of the see into an archbishopric.

It was William Lamberton, the twenty-third bishop of the diocese, who had the honour of seeing the cathedral completed, and solemnly consecrated in presence of King Robert Bruce on 5 July, 1318. The building was 355 feet in length, and consisted of a nave of twelve bays with aisles, north and south transepts, each of three bays, with eastern aisles, choir of five bays with aisles, and presbytery. Sixty years after the consecration it was partly destroyed by fire, but was completely restored before 1440. Bishop Lamberton built the beautiful chapter-house, which still exists, though roofless. Among Lamberton's most eminent successors were Henry Wardlaw, who founded the University of St. Andrews in 1411, James Kennedy, founder of St. Salvator's College, and Patrick Graham (Kennedy's half-brother), who successfully resisted the claim revived by Archbishop Neville of York to have the supremacy of that see over the Scottish Church recognized in Rome. So successful was Graham's protest, that Sixtus IV finally decided the question by a Bull, 27 August, 1472, erecting the See of St. Andrews into an archbishopric, and its cathedral into the metropolitan church for the whole of Scotland. Twelve sees were assigned to St. Andrews as its suffragans, those of Glasgow, Dunkeld, Aberdeen, Moray, Brechin, Dunblane, Ross, Caithness, Orkney, Argyll, the Isles, and Galloway. The last-named bishopric had hitherto been subject to York, while those of Orkney, Argyll, and the Isles had continued to form part of the Province of Trondhjem in Norway. Pope Sixtus announced the new creation in letters addressed to James III and to the Scottish bishops, and he also conferred on the primate the office of Apostolic nuncio. The new metropolitan see, however, preserved its unique position for barely twenty years.

Scotland was unanimous in demanding — through its king, its chancellor, and its bishops — that the ancient See of Glasgow should be similarly honoured; and in 1492 Innocent VIII erected it also into an archbishopric and separate province, with Dunkeld, Dunblane, Galloway, and Argyll as suffragans. In 1496 James IV procured the nomination to St. Andrews first of his brother, the Duke of Ross, and, after his death (by an abuse too common in those times), of his own natural son, Alexander Stuart, a boy of sixteen. The youthful archbishop fell at Flodden in 1513, fighting by his father's side. He was followed successively by Archbishops Forman, James and David (Cardinal) Beaton, and Hamilton. At the period immediately preceding the Reformation and the spoliation of the ancient Church, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the primate included two archdeaconries, nine rural deaneries, the patronage of 131 benefices, and the administration of 245 parishes. Archbishop Hamilton was hanged at Stirling (in his pontifical vestments) on 5 April, 1571; and though the few remaining members of his cathedral chapter duly elected Robert Hay as his successor, he was never consecrated, and the See of St. Andrews remained vacant for three hundred and seven years.

For nearly a century the scattered Catholics of the former archdiocese were under the jurisdiction of the English prefects and vicars Apostolic; but in 1653 a prefect of the Scottish Mission (William Ballantyne) was appointed by the Holy See. Forty years later the first vicar Apostolic for Scotland (Bishop Nicholson) was consecrated in Paris. The country was divided into two vicariates in 1726, a Highland and a Lowland, and just a hundred years later Leo XII added a third, the Eastern, including the whole of the former Archdiocese of St. Andrews. At length, on 4 March, 1878, the regular hierarchy was restored by Leo XIII.

The Catholic Diocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh as defined in the Apostolic Letter "Ex Supremo Apostolatus Apice" of 4 March 1878, comprises the counties of Edinburgh, Berwick, Fife (southern part), Haddington, Linlithgow, Peebles, Roxburgh, Selkirk and (practically) Stirlingshire. The entire population of this portion of Scotland, according to the latest census, amounts to nearly 870,000, and the number of Catholics is estimated at 63,000, or about seven per cent of the whole. The number of churches, chapels and stations at the beginning of 1911 was 87, and of missions 51, served by eight Jesuit priests, and four Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The last-named order has one house in the diocese, and the Society of Jesus two. orders of women in the diocese comprise Ursulines of the Incarnation (whose convent, founded Edinburgh in 1835, was the first established in Scotland since the Reformation); Sisters of Mercy (two houses); Little Sisters of the Poor; Sisters of the Immaculate Conception; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent of Paul, (four houses); Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Poor Clares; Helpers of the Holy Souls. Religious of Marie Réparatrice; Sisters of Charity of St. Paul (two houses); Sisters of the Holy Cross; Dominicans; and Carmelites. The Catholic institutions are, a children's refuge, industrial school and boy's orphanage, orphanage for girls, House of Mercy for servants, home for working boys, Sacred Heart Home for penitents, dispensary and home for respectable girls, convalescent home, and St. Vincent's Home for destitute Children. The number of congregational day-schools is fifty, and the average attendance of children at them between 10,000 and 11,000. The great majority of the Catholics of the diocese (certainly over 90 per cent) are of Irish origin and parentage; of the remainder many are Italians, (chiefly from Naples), Poles, and Lithuanians, the latter engaged for the most part as miners. The Poles tend to become absorbed in the native population, usually discarding their Polish names. The material progress in the diocese, in the way of church building, has been noteworthy in recent years. In 1859 there was one church in the capital; half a century later there were eight; and churches have been built in different parts of the diocese of considerable architectural merit. Several of them being the finest ecclesiastical edifices in their respective towns. The archi-episcopal residence is in Edinburgh, where is also the old cathedral of St. Andrews was wrecked by the Protestant mob (Knox's "rascal multitude") in 1559; and though efforts were made by the Protestant Archbishop Spottiswoode and others to restore it, it became a total ruin. Nothing now remains of it but the south wall of the nave, a fragment of the beautiful west front, the eastern gable with its flanking turrets, portions of the transept and some pier bases. The present archbishop is the Most Rev. James A. Smith, b. in Edinburgh, 1841, ordained in Rome, 1866, and consecrated Bishop of Dunkeld in 1890. He was translated, to the See of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh in 1901. The last Protestant archbishop died in 1704; and the title remained unused until 1844, when it was revived by the episcopalian synod.


Registrum Prioratus S. Andreae (Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1841); BRADY, Episcopal Succession in England, Scotland, and Ireland (Rome, 1876); LYON, History of St. Andrews (Edinburgh, 1813); FORDUN, Scotichronicon (ed. GOODALL, Edinburgh, 1759); KEITH, Historical Catalogue of Scottish Bishops (Edinburgh, 1824); THEINER, Annales Ecclesiastici (Rome, 1856); MACKENZIE-WALCOTT, The Ancient Church of Scotland (London, 1874): LANG, St. Andrews (London, 18935; BELLESHEIM, Hist. of the Catholic Church of Scotland (4 vols., Edinburgh, 1887-90).

About this page

APA citation. Hunter-Blair, O. (1912). Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hunter-Blair, Oswald. "Saint Andrews and Edinburgh." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jeffrey L. Anderson.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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