Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/David (d.1139?)

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DAVID (d. 1139?), bishop of Bangor, is generally called ‘David the Scot,’ but the example of Marianus Scotus in the previous century shows that on the continent ‘Scot’ still often meant Irishman, and Ordericus Vitalis translates ‘Scotigena’ into the more modern usage by calling him ‘Irensis quidam scholasticus’ (Pertz, Mon. Germ. Script. vi. 243, xx. 67). If the identification of the continental scholar and the Welsh bishop can be satisfactorily established, there can be no doubt that David was a Welshman; but it would be very easy on the continent to confound him with the mass of wandering Irish ecclesiastics who still had churches of their own in many parts of Europe. David first appears in the early years of the twelfth century as a famous teacher at Würzburg, a place well known for its schools since the days of the Ottos, and, as the shrine of the Scot St. Kilian, the apostle of Franconia, apparently frequented by wandering Scots. A dispute between a papal and imperial claimant to the bishopric, in which the latter was victorious, had already brought home to Würzburg the struggle of pope and emperor, when the probity of David's character and his skill in the liberal arts attracted the notice of the emperor Henry V, who in 1109, by his marriage with Matilda, had established more intimate relations with David's island home. In 1110 David became Henry's chaplain, and, as literary no less than military weapons were needed for the conflict with Pope Paschal II, he was chosen with other scholars to attend the German king on his Roman expedition of that year in which the pope was so signally humiliated. At the emperor's request David wrote in three books a popular account of the expedition in an easy and familiar style hardly different from the vulgar language, and adapted to lay and unlearned intellects. In this history David stoutly defended the most audacious acts of his patron, justified his violence to the pope by the analogy of Jacob extorting the angel's blessing by similar means, and manfully upheld lay investitures. This history is not now extant, but large fragments survive in the accounts of the expedition given by William of Malmesbury (Gesta Regum, lib. v. § 420), and Ekkehard of Aura (Chronicon Universale, ed. Waitz, in Mon. Germ. Hist. Scriptores, vi. 243 sq.), which are based on it. Though horrified by his anti-papal sentiments, William is disposed to deal lightly with David's offences on the ground of his general good character and courtly purpose. Ekkehard, an imperial partisan, is less stinted in his praises. Ten years later David was elected bishop of Bangor. A late authority (Tritheim, Annales Hirsaugienses, i. 349, ed. 1690) says that after his return from Italy he became a monk under the Scottish abbot Macharius in the abbey of St. James, near Würzburg. But that abbey was only founded in 1139 (Ussermann, Germania Sacra, i. 280), and if there is any truth in the story it must apply to the very end of his life. Every step of David's life is involved in doubt, and it is hard to see what could have led so famous a scholar as David to accept so poor a bishopric. It is another difficulty that the authorities for his later life speak of him as an obscure Welshman, and are quite unaware of his earlier exploits.

The see of Bangor had been vacant since 1109, when dread of starvation and of violence from his unruly flock, no less than the hope of greater riches, had driven Bishop Hervey, the Norman nominee, to a securer throne at Ely. After a ten years' vacancy, Gruffudd son of Cynan, king of Gwynedd, united with the clergy and people of his land in the choice of David as their bishop. Perhaps by the free election of a Welsh scholar of European reputation the Welsh hoped to persuade Henry to end the deadlock which had resulted from the inability which either a purely Welsh or a purely English bishop found in maintaining himself in that see. Henry's consent was soon obtained, and a very humble letter of Gruffudd and his magnates besought Archbishop Ralph to consecrate the national nominee (Eadmer, Hist. Novorum, p. 259). Yet this acknowledgment of the metropolitical jurisdiction of Canterbury contained a threat that otherwise the Welsh would have to seek a bishop from Ireland ‘or some other barbarous region.’ Ralph was won over; he welcomed David kindly, entertained him for several days, and, on receiving his profession of obedience, consecrated him bishop on 4 April 1120 at Westminster, the presence of Roger of Salisbury and Richard de Belmeis of London among the assisting bishops suggesting the strong approval of Henry, whose chief ministers they were. It is remarkable, however, that Ralph is mentioned as giving David instruction in divine things, which he might well have resented.

David must have immediately visited his diocese, for on 7 May 1120 he was present at the removal of the teeth of St. Elgar and the body of St. Dubricius from Bardsey, preparatory to their translation to Bishop Urban's new cathedral at Llandaff (Liber Landavensis, pp. 3, 81, Welsh MSS. Society). He was for the next few years a good deal in England. In October 1121 he assisted at the consecration of Gregory, the Norman nominee, to the see of Dublin (Eadmer, Hist. Nov. p. 298). In April 1125 he was at Lambeth for the consecration of Sigefrid of Chichester, and in May was at the consecration of John of Rochester and Simon of Worcester at Canterbury (Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 79, 80). A week later he was at the benediction of a new abbot of Worcester in that town. In the same year a proposal was made, that came to nothing, to transfer Bangor along with St. Asaph and Lichfield to the province of York (T. Stubbs, Act. Pont. Ebor. in Twysden, 1718). In May 1127 David was present at Archbishop William of Corbeil's council at Westminster (Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 86). Little is known of the later years of his life, and the exact date of his death cannot be determined. Maurice, or Meurig, his successor, was consecrated on 3 Dec. 1139 (ib. ii. 121–2), so that if he did not return to Würzburg he probably died in 1139. The new prelate for a time hesitated to swear fealty to King Henry on the ground that his ‘spiritual father,’ the archdeacon of David, his predecessor, had dissuaded him from such a step. This advice from an official of David's may suggest that in his later years, when the death of Stephen relaxed the bonds of English rule in Wales, the bishop of Bangor became a champion either of the spiritual or temporal independence of Gwynedd.

Besides his account of the emperor Henry V's expedition to Italy, David is said to have written ‘Magistratuum Insignia, lib. i., Apologia ad Cæsarem, lib. ii., De regno Scotorum, lib. i.,’ but there is no early authority for this. Dempster (Hist. Eccles. Gentis Scotorum, lib. iv., Nos. 362, 383, Bannatyne Club) says that in his time some of David's theological writings were preserved in the library of Corpus College, Cambridge, but he probably confuses him with some more famous ‘Scotus,’ and there is no mention of them in Nasmith's ‘Catalogue of Corpus MSS.’

[Most of the original texts for David's history are collected in Haddan and Stubbs's Councils, vol. i.; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum; Ordericus Vitalis; Eadmer's Hist. Novorum; Continuation of Florence of Worcester; Ekkehard's Chronicon Universale, ed. Waitz; Gervase of Canterbury, vol. ii.; Annales Wigornenses, s.a. 1120, in Annales Monastici, Rolls Ser.; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 221; Bale's Script. Brit. Cat. cent. xiv., 211; Wattenbach's Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter, pp. 261–2.]

T. F. T.