Thomas de Buittle

infobox bishopbiog
name = Thomas de Buittle

religion=Roman Catholic Church
See = Diocese of Galloway
Title = Bishop of Galloway
Period = 1415-1420 × 1422
consecration = June 14 × September 5, 1415
Predecessor = Gilbert Cavan
Successor = Alexander Vaus
post = Provost of Maybole
Archdeacon of Galloway | ordination = on or before 1388
bishops =
date of birth = unknown
place of birth = Probably Galloway
date of death = 1420 × 1422
place of death =

Thomas de Buittle [Butil, Butill, Butyll, Butyl, Bucyl] (d. 1420 × 1422) was a Scottish prelate, clerk and papal auditor active in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Probably originating in Galloway, Scotland, Thomas took a university career in canon law in England and France, before taking up service at the court of Avignon Pope Benedict XIII. He obtained a number of benefices in the mean time, including the position of Archdeacon of Galloway, and is the earliest known and probably first provost of the collegiate church of Maybole. The height of his career came however when the Pope provided him to the bishopric of Galloway, a position he held from 1415 until his death sometime between 1420 and 1422.

Background and education

Thomas' name suggests a strong likelihood that he came from Buittle in Kirkcudbrightshire, Galloway, lands in the control of the Douglas family.Watt, "Dictionary", p. 70.] In 1388, it was claimed that he had been a scholar of Decrees (i.e. Canon law) at the University of Oxford for five years, a claim to some extent confirmed by the grant of safe-conduct from the English crown on February 18, 1380, to travel and study at Oxford for a year. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 139; Watt, "Dictionary", pp. 70-1.]

By April 18, 1390, he had obtained a Bachelors degree (in Decrees) from the University of Avignon; he appears in the Avignon university student rolls on August 9, 1393 and again on October 21, 1394.Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71.] Thomas had obtained a doctorate (in Decrees) sometime between July 15, 1401 and June 9, 1410. He witnessed Bishop Henry de Wardlaw's foundation charter of the University of St Andrews on February 28, 1412, and was named in the grant of privileges made to the new university by Pope Benedict XIII on August 28, 1413.

First provost of Maybole

On February 1, 1388, a letter from Avignon Pope Clement VII to the official of the diocese of Glasgow says that Thomas "holds the provostship of the chapel of St Mary de Mayboyl, Glasgow diocese, which is a simple benefice without cure". [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 139.] The collegiate church of Maybole was founded under the patronage of John Kennedy, Lord of Dunure, a short time before February 2, 1382, when a mandate was issued by the papacy confirming its erection. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 82; Cowan & Easson, "Medieval Religious Houses", p. 224.] A year previously the Lord of Dunure had founded a chapel to St Mary beside the parish church of Maybole, and the erection established a provost, two chaplains and a clerk. [Cowan & Easson, "Medieval Religious Houses", p. 224.] Thomas de Buittle held the vicarage there. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", pp. 139, 152, 163; Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71; see below.] It is possible that Thomas was the senior priest there when it was erected into a collegiate church; Thomas is certainly the earliest known provost, and neither the appointment nor the death of any predecessor are noted anywhere.Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 366.]

He held the vicarage of Lochrutton in Kirkcudbrightshire in 1388, when a papal letter indicated that he was expected to resign Lochrutton after obtaining the benefice of Maybole in the gift of the Prioress of the nunnery of North Berwick. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 139; Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71; Maybole parish church had been given to North Berwick nunnery in the reign of Alexander II of Scotland by Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick. ] He still held Lochrutton on April 18, 1390, when the letter was repeated. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 152.] Thomas remained provost of Maybole until at least 1401, and perhaps until his consecration as Bishop of Galloway in 1415. [Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71; Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 366.] No-one else is known to have held the position of provost there until 1439, although this proves nothing as the evidence for such things in the south-west of Scotland in this period is always scarce.

Archdeacon of Galloway

On March 2, 1391, Thomas was provided by the papacy to be Archdeacon of Galloway. [Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 137.] On May 23, a mandate was sent to the senior clergy of the bishopric of Glasgow authorising them to collate Thomas to the archdeaconry of Galloway, at that point occupied "unlawfully" by Patrick Smerles; the mandate gave dispensation for Thomas to retain control of both the provostship of Maybole and the vicarage of Lochrutton. [Burns (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 163.] He was still litigating with Smerles on August 9, 1393, by which point in time he had resigned Lochrutton; he was in firm possession of the archdeaconry by October 21, 1394. [Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71; see also McGurk (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 33; ] During his time as Archdeacon of Galloway, the church of Penninghame was annexed as a prebend of the office.

Papal career and other benefices

He resigned the vicarage of Maybole through a proxy (Patrick de Houston) at the papal court on February 16, 1398, in exchange with Gilbert Adounane for the church of Kirkcolm in Wigtownshire. [McGurk (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 82; Watt, "Dictionary", p. 71.] Sweetheart Abbey, overlords of Kirkholm parish, dispossessed him briefly of this benefice, but Thomas obtained papal restitution in a papal mandate dated October 13, 1410. He got papal provision on December 5, 1412, to the politically important vicarage of Dundonald in Kyle, but this was unfruitful as the previous vicar turned out still to be alive. Presumably in its place he obtained the vicarage of Abernyte in the diocese of Dunkeld on January 30, 1413, but despite promising annates, failed to obtain possession.

He did however successfully obtain provision to the church of Kinkell in the diocese of Aberdeen, and the prebend of Inverkeithny in the diocese of Moray with its associated canonry in Elgin Cathedral. As Thomas seems to have spent most of the early 1400s outside of Scotland in the employment of the papacy, these positions were probably given to supplement Thomas' income.Watt, "Dictionary", p. 72.] When he was in Scotland in February 1412 witnessing the foundation charter of St Andrews University, he was said to hold to elevated post of "auditor of the sacred apostolic palace". He had returned to Pope Benedict's court in Spain later in the same year, and can be found conducting various business there over the next few years, both for the papacy and as a proctor for people in Scotland.

Bishop of Galloway

As a reward for his service to the "Avignon Pope", now only recognised in Scotland, Sicily, Aragon and Castile, Thomas was provided to the bishopric of Galloway following the death of Elisaeus Adougan, the previous bishop. This occurred on June 14, 1415. [Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 131.] Although the local chapter had elected one Gilbert Cavan, a clerk of the Earl of Douglas, to fill this position, Benedict overturned this election and put Thomas there instead. [Dowden, "Bishops", p. 367; Watt, "Dictionary", pp. 71, 72; Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 131.] This probably occurred against the will of the Douglas family, to whom Cavan was a senior clerk. [Brown, "Black Douglases", p. 195.] Thomas resigned the archdeaconry of Galloway, with Gilbert Cavan succeeding him there. Presumably in compensation, Gilbert also received Thomas' previous holdings in the dioceses of Moray and Aberdeen. [McGurk (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 319; Watt, "Dictionary", p. 94; Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 137.] It had been supposed by some authorities that Thomas supported the capitulation of Narbonne, renounced his allegiance to Pope Benedict and supported the adherence to the Council of Constance in December 1415, but this is based on a misreading of the evidence.

It is not clear that, with possible Douglas opposition, Thomas obtained possession of the bishopric smoothly. There is a mandate, dated September 5, 1415, to the subdean of Glasgow Cathedral, ordering the latter to protect "Thomas and his successors in possession of the lands and heredities of "Innermasan", "Dyrmor", "Innysmocrinyl", "Kykkenot", "Mirtum" and "Nicoltum" in Candida Casa [i.e. Whithorn] diocese ... which are being molested". [McGurk (ed.), "Papal Letters", p. 326.] No more of such problems are heard. Thomas is next found testifying to an "inspeximus" at Perth on March 17, 1416. [Dowden, "Bishops", pp. 367-8.] This was made by Bishop Henry de Wardlaw of St Andrews on the request of the Council of Constance, a sign of the waning loyalty in Scotland and perhaps in Thomas to the Avignon papacy. Bishop Thomas appears to have been suffering ailing health by 1420. In this year he failed to attend a provincial council of the Scottish church at Perth, although he did sent a proctor. [Dowden, "Bishops", p. 368; Watt, "Dictionary", p. 94.] He died at some point between July 16, 1420 (date of the council), and December 4, 1422, when Alexander Vaus, Bishop of Caithness, was translated to be Thomas' successor as Bishop of Galloway. [Dowden, Bishops, p. 368; Watt, "Fasti Ecclesiae", p. 131.] Professor Donald Watt believes that his death probably occurred sometime in 1422.



* Brown, Michael, "The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Late Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455", (East Linton, 1998)
* Burns, Charles (ed.), "Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1378-1394", (Edinburgh, 1976)
* Cowan, Ian B. & Easson, David E., "Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man", Second Edition, (London, 1976)
* Dowden, John, "The Bishops of Scotland", ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
* McGurk, Francis (ed.), "Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1394-1419", (Edinburgh, 1976)
* Watt, D. E. R., "A Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Graduates to A. D. 1410", (Oxford, 1977)
* Watt, D. E. R., "Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638", 2nd Draft, (St Andrews, 1969)

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