Thomas de Rossy

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Thomas de Rossy
Bishop of Galloway
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Diocese of Galloway
In office1379–1397 x 1406
Predecessor Ingram de Ketenis
Successor Elisaeus Adougan
Consecrationbefore 16 July 1380
Personal details
Probably Scotland
Died1397 × 1406

Thomas de Rossy (de Rossi) O. F. M. was a late 14th century Scottish Franciscan friar, papal penitentiary, bishop and theologian. Of unknown, or at least unclear origin, he embarked on a religious career in his early years, entering the Franciscan Order, studying in England and at the University of Paris.

Order of Friars Minor male order in the Catholic Church

The Order of Friars Minor is a mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. The Order of Friars Minor is the largest of the contemporary First Orders within the Franciscan movement.

Kingdom of Scotland Historic sovereign kingdom in the British Isles from the 9th century to 1707

The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert I it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union. Following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472 and final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest.

Friar member of a mendicant religious order in Catholic Christianity

A friar is a brother member of one of the mendicant orders founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century; the term distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians and Carmelites.


He preached and lectured on the Immaculate Conception, and rose to seniority under the patronage of the Avignon Papacy and King Robert II of Scotland, becoming Bishop of Galloway and the only Franciscan to hold a Scottish bishopric. Thereafter he was a staunch advocate of Avignon Pope Clement VII against the English-backed Urban VI, for whom he engaged in partisan preaching and writing, famously challenging any English bishop to settle the issue by single combat.

Immaculate Conception Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived free from original sin

In Christian theology, the Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that God acted upon Mary in the first moment of her conception, keeping her "immaculate".

Avignon Papacy Period during which the popes resided in Avignon, France

The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon rather than in Rome. The situation arose from the conflict between the papacy and the French crown, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and maltreatment by Philip IV of France. Following the further death of Pope Benedict XI, Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as pope in 1305. Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309 he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the "Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy".

Robert II of Scotland King of Scots from 1371 to 1390

Robert II reigned as King of Scotland from 1371 to his death as the first monarch of the House of Stewart. He was the son of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland and of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of the Scottish king Robert the Bruce by his first wife Isabella of Mar.

Early years

The College de Sorbonne, Paris, in a 17th-century engraving, probably where Thomas was based for many years of his life. Sorbonne 17thc.jpg
The Collège de Sorbonne , Paris, in a 17th-century engraving, probably where Thomas was based for many years of his life.

There is not enough evidence to detail Rossy's early life and career. His name indicates a family origin from Rossie, but many locations have this name, including Rossie in Gowrie, Rossie in Angus and Rossie in Strathearn. On 3 October 1371, following a request from King Charles V of France and Robert II of Scotland, he received papal permission to take the Bachelor of Theology degree at the University of Paris; this is his first appearance in contemporary records. [1]

Gowrie province in Scotland

Gowrie is a region and ancient province of Scotland, covering the eastern sliver of what became Perthshire. It was located to the immediate east of Atholl, and originally included the area around Perth, though that was later detached as Perthia.

Angus, Scotland Council area of Scotland

Angus is one of the 32 local government council areas of Scotland, a registration county and a lieutenancy area. The council area borders Aberdeenshire, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross. Main industries include agriculture and fishing. Global pharmaceuticals company GSK has a significant presence in Montrose in the north of the county.

Strathearn strath of River Earn, Scotland

Strathearn or Strath Earn is the strath of the River Earn, in Scotland, extending from Loch Earn in the West to the River Tay in the east. The region formed a traditional province of Scotland, and hence had a mormaer and then an Earl. The province was bounded on the north by Atholl, north west by Breadalbane, south west by Menteith, south east by Fife, and on the east by Perthia.

This Papal Bull provides information about his earlier life. He was Scottish, had entered the Order of the Friars Minor (Franciscans), he had studied the Seven Liberal Arts and Theology at various locations — including the University of Paris — and had preached in Paris. [2] It is likely that Thomas had returned to his home country to preach and teach, a custom in the Franciscan Order. [3] In his later writings he claimed to have studied in Paris and to have lived among the English for seven years, obtaining a good "understanding of their character". [4]

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

English people Nation and ethnic group native to England

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

Pre-episcopal career

Thomas was at the Papal court in Avignon in 1371 acting as proctor for Patrick de Leuchars, Bishop of Brechin, making a payment to the papal chamber. [5] Having obtained his Theology degree, Thomas lectured on the conception of the immaculate Virgin at Paris in 1373 as a Bachelor of Sentences (baccatarius Sententiarum); [6] he had previously been appointed by the Chancellor of the university to deliver the summer lectures on the Sentences. [7]

Proctor, a variant of procurator, is a person who takes charge of, or acts for, another.

Patrick de Leuchars [also de Locrys or de Lochrys] was a 14th-century administrator and prelate in the Kingdom of Scotland. He first appears in the records in 1344 holding a church in East Lothian, and in 1351 attains national prominence as the new Bishop of Brechin. Bishop Patrick, who would be a core supporter of King David II of Scotland, became Royal Chancellor in the same decade. He held the chancellorship until around 1370, and the bishopric of Brechin until 1383, when he resigned it on account of his old age.

Bishop of Brechin Wikimedia list article

The Bishop of Brechin is the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Brechin or Angus, based at Dundee. Brechin Cathedral, Brechin is a parish church of the established (presbyterian) Church of Scotland. The diocese had a long-established Gaelic monastic community which survived into the 13th century. The clerical establishment may very well have traced their earlier origins from Abernethy. During the Scottish Reformation, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland gained control of the heritage and jurisdiction of the bishopric. However, the line of bishops has continued to this day, according to ancient models of consecration, in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

By 1375 Thomas, now vicar general of the Franciscan Order for Scotland, was running out of money. [8] This put the completion of his studies in jeopardy. [8] For this reason, Pope Gregory XI wrote to Walter de Wardlaw, Bishop of Glasgow, authorising Walter (a renowned scholar himself) and other doctors to grant Thomas, if they "found him fit", a Licentiate and a Doctorate in Theology. [8] Such a grant would enable Thomas to teach legally, allowing him to lessen the burden of his financial problems. [8]

A vicar general is the principal deputy of the bishop of a diocese for the exercise of administrative authority and possesses the title of local ordinary. As vicar of the bishop, the vicar general exercises the bishop's ordinary executive power over the entire diocese and, thus, is the highest official in a diocese or other particular church after the diocesan bishop or his equivalent in canon law. The title normally occurs only in Western Christian churches, such as the Latin Church of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Among the Eastern churches, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Kerala uses this title and remains an exception. The title for the equivalent officer in the Eastern churches is syncellus and protosyncellus.

Pope Gregory XI Pope from 1370 to 1378

Pope Gregory XI was Pope from 30 December 1370 to his death in 1378. He was the seventh and last Avignon pope and the most recent French pope. In 1377, Gregory XI returned the Papal court to Rome, ending nearly 70 years of papal residency in Avignon, France. He was the seventh and last of the Avignon Popes. His death shortly after was followed by the Western Schism.

A licentiate is a degree below that of a PhD given by universities in some countries. The term is also used for a person who holds this degree. The term derives from Latin licentia, "freedom", which is applied in the phrases licentia docendi meaning permission to teach and licentia ad practicandum signifying someone who holds a certificate of competence to practise a profession. Many countries have degrees with this title, but they may represent different educational levels.

Thomas was at Avignon again in 1375, but had returned to Scotland between March 1378 and April 1379 when he received a gift of £10 from the King of the Scots. [9] By 22 June 1379, Thomas was once again at the papal court at Avignon. While present, the recently elected anti-Pope, Clement VII, appointed him papal penitentiary "for the English and Irish languages". [10]

Becoming Bishop of Galloway

Historical map of the Western Schism, a split in the Catholic Church (1378-1417): red is support for Avignon, blue for Rome.
Caution: this map is highly inaccurate in some regions and borders, see its talk page. Western schism 1378-1417.svg
Historical map of the Western Schism, a split in the Catholic Church (1378–1417): red is support for Avignon, blue for Rome.
Caution: this map is highly inaccurate in some regions and borders, see its talk page.
Avignon Pope Clement VII, the Pope supported by France and Scotland from his election in 1378 until his death in 1394. VIIKelemen.jpg
Avignon Pope Clement VII, the Pope supported by France and Scotland from his election in 1378 until his death in 1394.

On 15 July 1379, Clement VII conditionally provided Thomas de Rossy to the Bishopric of Galloway with mandate for consecration should Ingram de Ketenis wish to resign his right to the see. [11] On the same day Thomas and another Scot, Hugh de Dalmahon, were sent to Scotland with 50 florins and with documentary evidence regarding the events leading to the Western Schism, events which allegedly nullified the election of Pope Urban VI. [12]

The Galloway bishopric was vacant because of the death of Adam de Lanark, a death which had occurred during the vacancy of papal see. [13] Oswald, the prior of Glenluce Abbey, had been elected by the canons of Whithorn to succeed Adam, an election which Urban VI, sometime after 18 April 1378, supported. This election was not supported by the Scottish-backed anti-Pope Clement VII. [14] Clement instead appointed Ingram de Ketenis, Archdeacon of Dunkeld; however, Ingram was unwilling to take up the bishopric, and raised objections to his own appointment. [15]

Ingram's refusal allowed Rossy to take up the bishopric. He was consecrated by 16 July 1380. [16] Oswald launched an appeal to Clement, but a letter to Thomas dated 29 October 1381, confirmed this had been rejected. [17] A further letter was sent, as follows:

To the bishops of St Andrews and Dunkeld. Mandate to enquire into the claim advanced by Oswald, claustral prior of Glenluys, O. Cist., Galloway diocese, to be the true bishop of Galloway in virtue of his election by the chapter of Galloway and subsequent provision made by Urban VI. They are to impose silence on him and to put Thomas de Rossy, provided to the bishopric by Clement VII and duly consecrated, into peaceful possession. [17]

The cancellation of Oswald's appointment does not appear to have silenced Oswald, who appears active in England, a kingdom which supported Urban VII. [16]

Pro-Clementine Thomas

As bishop of Galloway Thomas remained a close and highly active supporter of Clement. He preached the cause of Clement before Robert II at Dundee on 2 February 1380. [5] A military attack by Clementine Scotland on Urbanist England was planned. John Wyclif related that a commission was granted to a Scottish bishop to lead a "crusade" on behalf of Clement into England; this bishop was almost certainly Thomas de Rossy. [18] Thomas preached sermons in the English marches attempting to win supporters for the cause, and authored a tractate attacking the Urbanist cause along with English support for it. [19]

Although no "crusade" ever took place, around 1384 Thomas sent a letter to the bishops of England. [20] The letter invited Henry le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, or any other English bishop, to come to a debate with him; if they preferred, he wrote, they could settle the matter for both countries through single combat. [20] Henry le Despenser was probably addressed because he was known for his love of fighting, and had led a short expedition into France during the summer of 1383. [21] Despite his keenness to fight another bishop, Thomas de Rossy had apparently refused the offer of combat given by an English priest because of the latter's lower status. [21]

Bishop of Galloway

Remains of the Priory Nave at Whithorn, the seat (cathedra) for the bishopric of Galloway. St Ninians Chapel.jpg
Remains of the Priory Nave at Whithorn, the seat ( cathedra ) for the bishopric of Galloway.

Thomas was the first and only Franciscan to become bishop of a Scottish diocese. [22] Records of the day-to-day activities of Thomas as Bishop of Galloway, however, are thin. One charter survives, dated 16 July 1381, confirming a grant of the church of Buittle to Sweetheart Abbey. [23] The charter was issued at Kirkchrist in Twynholm parish, and was confirmed by the (Avignon) Pope on 18 October when Rossy himself was present at the papal court. [23] On 31 December, he presented to Pope Clement VII a roll of petitions — a series of requests — all of which were granted. [24]

After the death of King Robert II in 1390, Bishop Thomas along with other prelates of the Scottish kingdom, attended the coronation of the new king. At Scone, on 16 August 1390, two days after the coronation of Robert III of Scotland, Bishop Thomas gave a sermon; according to Wyntoun:

The Byschape off Galloway thare, Thomas,
(A theolog solempne he was),
Made a sermownd rycht plesand,
And to the matere accordand. [25]

Death and succession

Bishop Thomas was at Avignon again in the mid-1390s, as attested by record of a series of mundane transactions conducted by him there. On 10 September 1395, he was granted an indult to administer his bishopric in absentia, via a deputy; he is not known to have returned to Scotland. His name appeared in the sources for the last time on 6 September 1397. [20]

The exact date he died is a mystery, but it was not until 28 May 1406, that a successor, Elisaeus Adougan, was appointed to the see, meaning that Rossy's death could have occurred anywhere between these dates. [26]

As a friar and a bishop, Thomas could not father legitimate offspring and no partners or bastards are known. His own family background is likewise unknown, though he had a nephew for whom he obtained several papal favours. [27]

Theology and writings

Thomas de Rossy was a theologian and known as such, though his extant writings are dominated by political invective. [25] He authored two extant tractates and probably at least two others not extant. [28] His Quaestio de Conceptione Virginis Immaculatae was a reiteration of some of the arguments for the Immaculate Conception made by Duns Scotus. It was also a refutation of the scholars who had written against it, including Bernard of Clairvaux, Giles of Rome, Bonaventure O. F. M., Richard Middleton, Facinus de Ast, Robert Cowton O. F. M., Alexander of Hales and Gregory of Rimini. [29] Thomas' focus on the Immaculate Conception stemmed from his days in Paris, where he preached in its favour; it has even been suggested that Thomas was the Friar Minor particularly noted in Paris for his "cavalier treatment of St Bernard". [30]

Rossy's second work, the Tractatus Episcopi Candidae Casae de Regno Scotiae in Facto Schismatis contra Anglicos suos Vicinos was a defense of Clement VII and an attack on the legitimacy of "Bartolomeo of Bari" (i.e. Urban VI). It contains a long, detailed account of the events preceding the Schism, an account partially derived from a work of Cardinal Peter Flandrin. In justifying the pontificate of Clement, the Tractatus made extensive use of prophecy, especially prophecies attributed to Saint John of Bridlington. [31] The Tractatus Episcopi is the work, mentioned above, to which his letter to the bishops of England was appended. [32] In the Tractatus he accused the English of supporting Urban solely through hatred of the French. [21]


  1. Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas"; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 471.
  2. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 21.
  3. I.e. to return to one's homeland and preach; McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 21; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 471.
  4. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 21, n. 3.
  5. 1 2 Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472.
  6. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 21; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 471; for details of baccatarius Sententiarum, see Weisheipl, "The Johannine Commentary", pp. 185–6.
  7. Bryce, Scottish Grey Friars, vol. i, pp. 29–30, & n. 1 on p. 30.
  8. 1 2 3 4 McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", pp. 21–2; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472
  9. Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 471
  10. Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 471; the source for this is Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Roma, Coll. 457, folio 74 v; Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas" & McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 22, had put this appointment in the previous year.
  11. Dowden, Bishops of Scotland, p. 364; McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 22; Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas"; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 131.
  12. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 22; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472.
  13. Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, pp. 130–1.
  14. Dowden, Bishops of Scotland, p. 364, n. 1; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 131.
  15. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 22; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 131.
  16. 1 2 Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 131.
  17. 1 2 Burns (ed.), Papal Letters, p. 70.
  18. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", pp. 28–9; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, pp. 472–3.
  19. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 23; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 473.
  20. 1 2 3 Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 473.
  21. 1 2 3 McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 28.
  22. Bryce, Scottish Grey Friars, vol. i, p. 31, & n. 6; Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas".
  23. 1 2 Dowden, Bishops of Scotland, p. 364; Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas"; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472.
  24. Dowden, Bishops of Scotland, p. 365; Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas"; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 472.
  25. 1 2 Laing (ed.), Orygynale Cronykil, vol. iii, p. 55.
  26. Summerson, "Rossy, Thomas"; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 473; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 131.
  27. Watt, Biographical Dictionary, pp. 472, 473.
  28. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 23.
  29. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", pp. 23–5.
  30. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 24.
  31. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", pp. 26–9.
  32. McEwan, "'A Theolog Solempne", p. 28; Watt, Biographical Dictionary, p. 473.

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Religious titles
Preceded by
Ingram de Ketenis
Bishop of Galloway
1379–1397 x 1406
Succeeded by
Elisaeus Adougan