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Bishop Brice Douglas


Also referred to as Bricius de Douglas



The Bishop's seal

Bricius (sometimes anglicized as Brice, d. 1222) was prior of Lesmahagow and afterwards bishop of Moray (Gaelic epscop Muireb; Latin episcopus Moraviensis).

In this period, the name Bricius is more often a Latinization of the Gaelic names Máel Brigte ("tonsured devotee of St. Brigit") and Gilla Brigte ("devotee of St. Brigit") than a real name, although it is still possible that Bricius was indeed the bishop's real name. He is called Bricius Douglas by John Wilkins' Concilia magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae, and this is supported by two men who used this name, "Arkenbald and Henric" (Archibald and Henry), being called his brothers. Bricius appears to have been a son of William de Duglas, and had five brothers, four of whom also became clerics, all in the Moray diocese. The fifth and presumably eldest brother, Archibald of Douglas, succeeded to the Barony of Douglas in Lanarkshire.

Bricius became bishop of Moray in 1203, although the exact details of this accession (i.e. election, consecration, etc) are unknown. On April 7, 1206, Bishop Bricius received papal permission to move the seat (Latin: cathedra) of the see of Moray from Birnie to Spynie. The move was probably complete by June 1208. It would not be until the episcopate of his successor, Andreas de Moravia, that the bishopric would settle at Elgin Cathedral, Elgin.

Bricius was one of the most important clerics in the Scotland of his time, that is, during the later part of the reign of William the Lion (r. 1165-1214) and early part of the reign of Alexander II (1214-49). For instance, in 1207, Pope Innocent III appointed him judge-delegate of a dispute between Melrose Abbey and the Earl of Dunbar, two of the most important landownders in what for Moray-based Bricius was the remote English-speaking south-east of Scotland. In 1215, Bricius was one of three Scottish bishops to attend the Fourth Lateran Council at Rome (the other two were William de Malveisin, bishop of St Andrews and Walter, bishop of Glasgow). He returned to Rome in 1218, as part of a delegation of three Scottish bishops, including Walter of Glasgow, and Adam, bishop of Caithness, in order to obtain absolution from Pope Honorius III for the sentence of excommunication imposed on King Alexander II and the whole Kingdom of Scotland. This second visit to Rome is mentioned in Scottish sources, and confirmed by Papal records. The latter record that Bricius had solemny denied practicing divine offices during the interdict.

Bricius, however, found his episcopate in disrepute. Church records indicate that the Archdeacon and Chancellor of Moray reported Bricius' corrupt behaviour, including over-taxing his flock, dissolving lawful marriages for payment, tolerating unlawful ones for payment and taking procurations without the appropriate visitations, and spending a good deal of the proceeds on the services of women*. On 30 January 1219, Pope Honorius III instructed the abbots of Cupar Angus, Scone and Dunfermline to investigate these claims. The results are not known.


In the days of Bishop Bricius (1203-1222) the church at Kintrae {NGR NJ 169651} was already considered to be an "old church" amongst many similar. This is clear from a charter of Bishop Bricius, founding the chaplainry of the Castle of Duffus, where mention is made of the Church of Kintrae - "ad viam que vadit de veteri ecclesia de kyntra" (the road which goes down to the old church of Kintrae). In this charter the church is three times stated to be "old". [Moray Reg., no.211, p.273] This agrees well with the tradition, long held in Moray, that Kintrae was a muinntir of the Early Church.

He died in the year in the year 1222, and was succeeded by Andreas de Moravia.


Note: In  c.1222, Bishop Bricius (Brice de Douglas) moved his locus operandi from Birnie to Spynie and he slowly set about collecting the resources necessary to enhance his new establishment.  This, of course, conflicts with his death!

Certain histories refer to "St Brice" in reference to this bishop.  This however is almost certainly a case of misidentification with St Brice, Archbishop of Tours, a Gallo-Roman cleric and protegé of Saint Martin of Tours

Brice had brothers who held senior appointments in Moray:

  1. Alexander (Canon of Moray, Canon of Spynie and Vicar of Elgin) - involved in various land transactions.
  2. Henry (Canon of Spynie and Clerk of Bishop)
  3. Hugh (Archdeacon of Moray)
  4. Freskin (Dean of Moray)


* Some reports show he had a least one child.


See also:
•  Bishops of Moray
•  Douglases in Moray



Sources for this article include:

  • A History of the House of Douglas; Sir Herbert Maxwell
  • The Bishops of Scotland; John Dowden
  • Cushnie Enterprises

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