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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2024

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Summary

The Isle of Man and its church1

A teardrop-shaped landmass of 572 square kilometres, the Isle of Man is the only place in the British Isles from which it is possible to see England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales all at the same time. Its history is not unnaturally bound up with that of these neighbours, but what is surprising about it is the extent to which it has escaped falling under the overwhelming influence of any one of them. For the Isle of Man is sui generis, not a part of the United Kingdom which surrounds it, but retaining laws and forms of government unknown or else long forgotten elsewhere in these islands.

Its recorded history begins in the high middle ages, when it was an Irishspeaking Christian island under Norse rule. Archaeological evidence, and the names of the parish churches, suggest that Christianity reached Man from Ireland, though when, or in what circumstances, no-one can now say for certain. The first Manx bishops of whom we have any knowledge were suffragans of York, appointed in the eleventh century, though this link may owe as much to Viking influence in both places as to anything else. Certainly York's medieval relationship with the Isle of Man was ephemeral, and no more was heard of it after about 1100.

The Vikings arrived in Man sometime in the ninth century and after a fairly slow conquest, they managed to establish a kingdom there which was ultimately dependent on Norway. By 1100 the kings of Man were recognized as rulers of the Scottish Hebrides, and occasionally of the Mull of Kintyre also. These Scottish possessions were known to the Norsemen as the sudre oyar (southern islands) - 'southern’ in relation to Orkney and Shetland that is - and it is from this that the name Sodor is derived. In 1134 King Olaf I (1103-53) established a bishopric in his kingdom which in 1153 became part of the ecclesiastical province of Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway.2

This seems to have been the final stage in a governmental organization which encompassed every aspect of Manx life. The Norsemen divided the Isle of Man into a north and a south side, apparently because of perceived ethnic distinctions between them. The north side was where the Viking settlements mainly were, whereas the south side seems to have remained more purely Gaelic.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
First published in: 2024

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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Gerald Bray
  • Book: Records of Convocation
  • Online publication: 12 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805431893.001
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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Gerald Bray
  • Book: Records of Convocation
  • Online publication: 12 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805431893.001
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Edited by Gerald Bray
  • Book: Records of Convocation
  • Online publication: 12 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781805431893.001
Available formats
×