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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

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Bishop John

By Norman F Shead

John (d. 1147) is important as the founder of the first cathedral in Glasgow and as defender of the independence of the See from the archbishop of York. He was probably promoted by the future King David I as ruler of Cumbria since he was David's chaplain. His consecration by the Pope (pre-1118) rather than the archbishop of York set a precedent for all the 12th century bishops of Glasgow.

Suspended by Archbishop Thurstan for refusing obedience to York, he went to Rome (1122), but finding the Pope unsympathetic, he travelled to Jerusalem. Under papal pressure, he returned to Scotland via Rome. Despite papal instructions, he continued to refuse obedience to York. In 1125 King David sent Bishop John to Rome to ask (unsuccessfully) for the creation of an archbishopric at St Andrews.

He was presumably present at the consecration of the first cathedral at Glasgow (1136), a substantial stone building. He received the church of Govan and land in Partick from David and began the staffing of the cathedral by creating three prebends to support canons. However, Bishop John withdrew to live as a monk at Tiron (France), perhaps because he was threatened with excommunication for supporting an anti-pope. After the latter's death (1138), he was persuaded by David and a papal legate to return. He played a part in bringing religious communities to Kelso, Jedburgh (his burial place) and Lesmahagow. He was frequently at court, witnessing charters of David and his son Earl Henry.


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