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Watt, Donald E. R.
Medieval Church Councils in Scotland.
Edinburgh: Clark 2000. XVII, 185 S. 8. £ 34,95. Geb. ISBN 0-567-08731-X.
W. R. Ward
This learned little book by an Emeritus Professor of Scottish Church History at St Andrews in Scotland, was commissioned over twenty years ago by Professor Walter Brandmüller, and is scheduled to appear in his great Konziliengeschichte series where readers who prefer to read in German will be able to find it. The English-language original is, however, simple and lucid, and free of the hazards which await the translation of church history between Britain and Germany in either direction. For students of church councils the story it relates has a special interest, since, from the time when political unity was achieved in Scotland in the early eleventh century to 1472 the Scottish church had a unique organisation. It already confirmed to the pattern of the Western church in being divided into dioceses with bishops, but it was not until 1472 that one see, St. Andrews, was elevated above the rest with a metropolitan archbishop for the whole church. In 1225 the Scottish bishops as a group had sought papal authority under the universal canon law to act in council so as to tackle common problems (which often included each other's fractiousness); and it was with papal encouragement that a provincial council was then established. The Pope was thus the personal metropolitan of the Scottish church, and this special relationship was recognized by prohibiting appeals under canon law arising from Scottish cases to be heard anywhere outside Scotland except at the Roman court. This was a point of consequence since the boundaries of the Scottish church itself were subject to challenge. The bishops of Galloway long professed obedience to the see of York, but none did so after 1355. The elevation of St. Andrews to metropolitan status was accompanied by the formal transfer of Galloway from the English province of York, together with that of the diocese of Orkney from the Norwegian province of Trondheim. The Scottish church was now coterminous with the Scottish kingdom, and had the convenience of a local appellate authority to eliminate costly appeals to Rome. This simple but important story is here worked out on the basis of a meticulous criticism of the original sources.