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Publication Account

Date 1982

Event ID 1018290

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


The cathedral of the bishopric of Moray was formally established beside Elgin in 1224, but arrangements leading towards this event may have begun as early as 1215, and there is some evidence that the 'Church of the Holy Trinity beside Elgin' was at least partly in existence when it became the cathedral (Cant, 1974, 22). Organisationally, progress was rapidly made, when in 1226 Bishop Andrew enlarged his chapter, i.e. body of cathedral and diocesan dignitaries, from eight to eighteen. A further five canons were added in 1242 and this total remained static until the early sixteenth century, when two more posts were created (ibid.,25). By the mid-thirteenth century, therefore, the cathedral was very adequately staffed, both in numbers and in quality. The various bishops of the fourteenth century kept up these standards and it has been noted that they all had a high proportion of graduate clerks in their chapters (Maclean, 1981, 87).

The internal history of the cathedral is mainly concerned witn the daily processes of diocesan administration. The drastic attack on the cathedral in 1390 by the Wolf of Badenoch (see page 3) was unfortunately not a unique event, since Alexander, son of the Lord of the Isles in 1402 twice plundered the cathedral precinct (Mackintosh, 1914, 57). These events underline the wealth which the cathedral represented and it is not surprising that the bishops proceeded in the fifteenth century to erect at Spynie Palace, two miles to the north, one of the most imposing spiscopal residences in Scotland (Cant, 1948, 24-5). The wealth of the bishopric is also evident in the dealings of the last medieval bishop, Patrick Hepburn, son of the first earl of Bothwell, who was 'the great dilapidator' of the possessions of the church and continued to alienate its lands even when he held the secularised position of bishop after the Reformation of 1560 (Innes, 1837, xv-xvi). In status as well as in appearance the cathdral, throughout its history deserved the description bestowed on it by the acute ecclesiastical historian, Dr. Joseph Robertson, 'the grandest of all the northern minsters' (Mackintosh. 1914, 45).

Information from ‘Historic Elgin: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1982)

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