Bishop of Caithness

Bishop of Caithness

The Bishop of Caithness was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Caithness, one of Scotland's 13 medieval bishoprics. The first referenced bishop of Caithness was Aindréas, a Gael who appears in sources between 1146 and 1151 as bishop. Aindréas spent much if not all of his career outside his see.

Other bishops before Aindréas are possible, but none is documented. King David I of Scotland, is credited with founding many bishoprics, and it is possible that Caithness was one of them. Little documented history exists before the reign of King David.

The earliest bishops resided at Halkirk, with a castle at Scrabster. Bishop Gilbert de Moravia moved the episcopal seat to Dornoch in what is now Sutherland (then regared as part of Caithness), and the bishopric remained at Dornoch Cathedral for the remainder of its existence. The Bishopric of Caithness' links with Rome ceased to exist after the Scottish Reformation, but continued, saving temporary abolition between 1638 and 1661, under the episcopal Church of Scotland until the Revolution of 1688. Episcopacy in the established church in Scotland was permanently abolished.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
- See left Some lists give Angerius Brito; this is in fact Bishop Angerius of Catania in Sicily. Catania and Caithness were often written identically. See G. W. S. Barrow, "Angerius Brito, Cathensis Episcopus", in Traditio, xxvi, (1970), p. 351.
1147 x 1151-1184 Aindréas of Caithness First known bishop of Caithness; famously, Aindréas is named as a source by the writer of de Situ Albanie.
1184 x 1199-1202 John of Caithness
1213-1222 Adam of Melrose Formerly Abbot of Melrose; was burned to death in his kitchen by the husbandmen of Caithness.
1222 x 1223-1245 Gilbert de Moravia
1246 x 1247-1255 William
1263-1270 Walter de Baltrodin
1272 x 1273 Nicholas Nicholas had been abbot of Scone. Pope Gregory X refused to confirm his election because of his "intolerable lack of learning".
1274-1275 x 1278 Archibald Heroch
1278-1279 Richard Richard had been Dean of Caithness. Richard was old and infirm by the time of his election; Pope Nicholas III persuaded Richard to resign his election rights.
1279-1282 Hervey de Dundee Hervey was elected to the see after the resignation of Bishop Richard. Hervey died on his way for confirmation at the Papal court.
1282-1291 Alan de St Edmund
1291 x 1296 John
1296 Adam de Darlington
1296-1297 x 1304 Andrew de Buchan
1304-1321 x 1327 Fearchar Belegaumbe
1328-1329 x 1341 David
1341-1342 Alan de Moravia
1342-1365 x 1369 Thomas de Fingask
1369-1379 x 1380 Maol Choluim de Drumbreck
1381-1412 Alexander Man
1414-1422 Alexander Vaus
1422-1426 John de Crannach
1427-1445 x 1446 Robert de Strathbrock
1446-1447 x 1448 John Innes
1448-1477 William Mudy
1478-1484 Prosper Camogli de' Medici Also known as Prosper Camulio de Janua.
1484 John Sinclair
1501-1517 Andrew Stewart (elder)
1517-1540 x 1541 Andrew Stewart (younger)
1544-1548 Alexander Gordon Provided by crown to replace Stewart; resigned claim in 1548.
1542-1586 Robert Stewart Second son of John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox, and brother of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox. He spent many years as "bishop postulate" in England. He became a reformer, although he retained the title of bishop until his death in 1586.
1586-1587 Robert Pont
1600-1604 George Gledstanes Translated to Archbishopric of St Andrews.
1604-1616 Alexander Forbes
1616-1638 John Abernethy
1638 Robert Hamilton Episcopacy abolished in Scotland until Restoration of 1661.
1662-1680 Patrick Forbes
1680-1688/9 Andrew Wood Episcopacy permanently abolished in the Church of Scotland. He died aged 76 years old, in 1695.


  • Broun, Dauvit, “The Seven Kingdoms in De Situ Albanie: A Record of Pictish political geography or imaginary Map of ancient Alba”, in E.J. Cowan & R. Andrew McDonald (eds.), Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era, (Edinburgh, 2000, rev. 2005).
  • Crawford, Barbara, "The Earldom of Caithness and the Kingdom of Scotland, 1150-1266" in Keith Stringer (ed.), Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1985), pp. 25-43
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Jackson, Kenneth H. (ed), The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer, (Cambridge, 1972)
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops: Down to the Year 1688, (London, 1924)
  • Lawrie, Sir Archibald, Early Scottish Charters Prior to A.D. 1153, (Glasgow, 1905)
  • Watt, D.E.R., Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638, 2nd Draft, (St Andrews, 1969)

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