Godred II Olafsson - Ecclesiastical Events

Ecclesiastical Events

Little is known of the ecclesiastical history of the Kingdom of the Isles until Godred's father, Olaf, appointed Wimund as Bishop of the Isles, in 1134. One of the most important ecclesiastical events in the history of the kingdom was the foundation of Rushen Abbey in 1134, with a grant of lands from Olaf to the Abbot of Furness. At the time of Olaf's original grant, Furness was a Savignac house. In 1147 the Cistercian and Savignac orders merged, and it is likely that Rushen became Cistercian at this time. When Godred ascended the throne, his first act was to confirm his father's grant. Another key event was the foundation of the Archbishopric of Nidaros, a metropolitan see centred in Norway. During this time the archbishopric, founded in 1152–53, incorporated 11 bishoprics within and without Norway. One of these bishoprics encompassed the domain of the Kingdom of the Isles, and was created by a papal decree in 1154. In several respects the bishopric mirrored the political reality of the Kingdom of the Isles. For example, the bishopric and kingdom shared the same geographical boundaries, and at times both shared a similar subjection to Norway. The ecclesiastical connection with Nidaros further strengthened the link between the Kingdom of the Isles and the Kingdom of Norway.

In one charter, thought to date from between Godred's ascension and his temporary expulsion by Somerled in 1158, Godred granted several rights to the monks of Holm Cultram Abbey: the right to enter and leave his lands with no tolls or customs taken from them and the assurance that in the event of their ships being wrecked ashore, no goods belonging to the monks would be taken from them. Another charter, thought to have been in circulation in 1175, records that Godred gave "Asmundestoftes" and "Eschedala" to St Bees Priory, in exchange for the "Church of St Olaf" and the villula ("small villa") called "Euastad". The charter's "Asmundestoftes" has been identified as Ballellin, and "Eschedala" as Dhoon. It has been suggested that the "Church of St. Olaf" was located at Jallo, near Port Mooar; and that the villula was at Ballajora, all within the parish of Maughold. St Bees Priory was closely connected with Godred's son-in-law, John de Courcy, who granted Nendrum Monastery to St Bees Priory.

St Oran's Chapel, the mortuary chapel on the Inner Hebridean island of Iona, is the oldest surviving building on the island today. Judging from certain Irish influences in its architecture, the chapel is thought to date to about the mid 12th century. Somerled's rise to power took place in the mid 12th century, during which time he seized many of the Inner Hebridean islands from Godred's control. Later descendants of Somerled are known to have used the chapel, and both he and one of his sons, Ragnvald, have been linked to the chapel's establishment. There is also a possibility that the chapel was built during Godred's reign or possibly that of his father Olaf. The Chronicle of Mann records that Godred died in 1187, and notes that he was buried on Iona the following summer, in 1188. In Donald Monro's mid 16th century description of the Hebrides, and of Iona in particular, he stated that the island contained a stone tomb inscribed Tumulus Regum Norwegiæ ("The Tomb of the Kings of Norway"). According to Monro, it was said that eight Kings of Norway were buried there; however, the only historical candidates for Monro's 'Norwegian' kings are Godred, Olaf Cuaran (d. 981), and Uspak (d. 1230).

According to the chronicle, papal legate Cardinal Vivian came to Mann in 1176 where he formalised the marriage between Godred and his wife, Fingola, daughter of a son of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn. The chronicle notes that, on the same day that Sylvanus, Abbot of Rievaulx, married the couple, he duly received from Godred part of the lands of Myroscough, in the north part of Mann (within what is today the parish of Lezayre). Although Sylvanus built a monastery on these lands, by the end of the 13th century, the estate had been taken over by Rushen Abbey.

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