Scottish benefices and clergy during the Pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-84) : the evidence in the Registra Supplicationum
In the last years of the pontificate of Paul II and for the whole of the pontificate of Sixtus IV, nearly six hundred Scottish clerics supplicated to the pope for a variety of reasons, although the majority concerned their holding of benefices. The clerics ranged from those who were unbeneficed to those who were of prelatial rank and also included a small group who were familiars of the pope and of cardinals. Their supplications are contained within the Registra Supplicationum, a Vatican Archive source, which has long been regarded as an important source for the study of the late medieval Scottish Church in light of the paucity of native ecclesiastical source material. In order to analyse almost 1,200 supplications (for the period January 1470 to August 1484) to the best effect, the study has employed the use of a relational database. Methodological issues such as record linkage are therefore discussed in detail, in addition to results of analysis. In essence the research has been conducted as much to determine what issues can, and should be addressed as to provide definitive conclusions. Nevertheless, use of such methodology has imparted greater clarity to results of analysis than has hitherto been possible. The study reveals, for example, that a disproportionate number of supplications were made by, or on behalf of a distinct group of papal or cardinal familiars. Furthermore, in terms of relations to the papacy, a marked variation from diocese to diocese can be noted. The dioceses of St Andrews, Glasgow, and, to a lesser degree, Aberdeen were not only the most popular dioceses in which aspiring clerics sought benefices, but clergy from these dioceses were more likely to seek favour from the pope.