Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robert (d.1159)

ROBERT (d. 1159), bishop of St. Andrews, was an Englishman, and first appears as a canon of St. Oswald de Nostellis, near Pontefract. Alexander I of Scotland brought Robert and five other English monks to the monastery of Scone in 1115, so that they might introduce the Augustinian rule, and Robert was made prior. In 1122 he was elected to the see of St. Andrews, to which Eadmer had been preferred after the death of Turgot in 1115, but had not been consecrated. Robert was probably consecrated in 1125 by Thurstan, archbishop of York (Fordun; cf. Dalrymple, Collections, p. 250; Wyntoun), though without making any admission of subjection to that prelate. The deed of consecration is quoted by Sibbald (Independence of the Scots Church, p. 16) and by Lyon (Hist. of St. Andrews, i. 64).

The most important event during the rule of Bishop Robert was the founding of the priory of St. Andrews. Alexander I granted to the church of St. Andrews the district known as cursus apri or the Boar's Chase, which included the parishes of St. Andrews, St. Leonard's, Dunino, Cameron, and Kemback, with the intention of founding a monastery at St. Andrews; but death prevented him from accomplishing his design. The young king, David I, consented to this gift, though the bishop strove to persuade him to leave the lands as an endowment of the bishopric. Finding the king determined to fulfil the paternal desire, Robert consented to the establishment of the priory of St. Andrews, and sent to his own monastery of St. Oswald for a prior. The Culdees had long maintained a settlement at Kilrymont, near St. Andrews, and claimed a voice in the election of bishops; but Robert was intent upon destroying their power, and foresaw that the establishment of the priory would be a potent weapon for this purpose. He expressly excluded the Culdees from the priory, and shortly afterwards he obtained a grant of the important Culdee monastery of St. Serf in Loch Leven, from which he gradually expelled the Culdees. From the first, Robert took active control of the priory, and thus formed a great centre of Romanising influence, which ultimately destroyed the Culdee monasteries, these being (it is supposed) averse to the supremacy of the pope. The priory was built close beside the chapel of St. Regulus, which Robert erected, and recent excavations have disclosed its extent. The tower of St. Rule, with the remains of a diminutive chancel, still exists; and, though an absurd tradition ascribes it to a much earlier period, there is no doubt that it was erected by Bishop Robert about 1140. It was through his influence that the king raised St. Andrews to the dignity of a royal burgh. His name appears frequently in the ‘Register of the Priory of St. Andrews’ as the donor of munificent gifts to the priory.

In 1154 Robert had grown infirm through age and illness, and Adrian IV granted him special exemption from duties that would take him beyond the bounds of his diocese. Wyntoun states that his death took place in 1159, and that he was buried within ‘the auld kirk,’ meaning the chapel of St. Rule. No trace of his tomb has been found. He seems to have been a devoted churchman, earnest in his support of Romish supremacy, somewhat severe in his treatment of the Culdees, but strenuous in his efforts to christianise Scotland.

[Keith's Cat. of Bishops, p. 6; Registrum Prioratus Sancti Andree; Fordoun's Scotichronicon; Lyon's Hist. of St. Andrews; Gordon's Scotichronicon, i. 122; Duncan Keith's Hist. of Scotland, ii. 310; Stephen's Hist. of the Scottish Church, i. 268; Millar's Fife, Pictorial and Historical; Wyntoun's Cronykil; Boece's Cronykil; Lang's St. Andrews; Chartularies of Scone, Dunfermline, Holyrood, and Newbottle; and art. Regulus, Saint.]

A. H. M.