Bishop of Aberdeen

Bishop of Aberdeen

The Bishop of Aberdeen (originally Bishop of Mortlach, in Latin Murthlacum) was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Aberdeen, one of Scotland's 13 medieval bishoprics, whose first recorded bishop is an early 12th century cleric named Nechtan. It appears that the episcopal seat had previously been at Mortlach (Mòrthlach), but was moved to Aberdeen during the reign of King David I of Scotland. We know the names of three bishops of Mortlach, the latter two of whom, "Donercius" and "Cormauch" (Cormac), are known only by name. The Bishop of Aberdeen broke communion with the Roman Catholic Church after the Scottish Reformation. Following the Glorious Revolution, the office was abolished. A Roman Catholic diocese was recreated in Aberdeen in 1878.


List of known bishops of Mortlach

Tenure Incumbent Notes
fl. 1012x Beóán of Mortlach One of the three known bishops of Mortlach. Known for other sources.
c. 1000s "Donercius" One of the three known bishops of Mortlach. Nothing more is known.
c. 1000s Cormac of Mortlach One of the three known bishops of Mortlach. Nothing more is known.

List of known bishops of Aberdeen

The Bishopric of Aberdeen, as the Bishopric of Aberdeen, appears to date from the 1130s, as does the list of known bishops.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
fl. 1131x1132 Nechtan of Aberdeen
fl. 1147x1151-1171 Edward of Aberdeen
1172–1199 Matthew
1199–1207 John of Kelso
1207–1228 Adam de Kald
1228 x 1229 Matthew the Scot (bishop-elect) Matthew or Mata had been the chancellor of king William I of Scotland. He was postulated to the see of Aberdeen, before in turn being postulated to the higher ranking See of Dunkeld. At any rate, he died before consecration. His name indicates that he was a Gael, but we do anything else about his background.
1228–1239 Gilbert de Stirling
1239–1247 Radulf de Lamley
1247–1256 Peter de Ramsay
1256–1270 x 1272 Richard de Potton
1272–1281 x 1282 Hugh de Benin
1282–1328 Henry le Chen
1329 Walter Herok (elect) He died at Avignon, perhaps before being consecrated.
1329–1343 x 1344 Alexander de Kininmund (elder)
1344–1350 William de Deyn
1350–1354 x 1355 John de Rait
1355–1380 Alexander de Kininmund (younger)
el. 1380 Simon de Ketenis Elected by chapter sometime after 31 August 1380, but was provided instead as Dean of Aberdeen on 18 November.
1380–1389 Adam de Tyninghame
1389–1421 Gilbert de Greenlaw
1422–1440 Henry de Lichton Previously Bishop of Moray.
1441–1458 Ingram Lindsay
1458–1480 Thomas Spens Previously Bishop of Galloway.
1480–1483 Robert Blackadder (bishop-elect) He became Bishop of Glasgow.
1483–1514 William Elphinstone Previously Bishop of Ross. He is one of the greatest of all medieval Scottish bishops, and is remembered today for, among other things, founding the University of Aberdeen.
1514 x 1515–1518 Alexander Gordon
x 1515–1516 Robert Forman Provided by Pope, but resigned without ever possessing.
1518–1532 Gavin Dunbar
coadjutor: 1529–1531 George Learmond (coajutor bishop only) George Learmond had been appointed Dunbar's successor in 1529, but he died before Dunbar did.
1532–1545 William Stewart
1545–1577 William Gordon Because of the Scottish Reformation of 1560, he was the last bishop owing allegiance to Rome.
1577–1600 David Cunningham
1600–1616 Peter Blackburn
1616–1617 Alexander Forbes Translated from Bishopric of Caithness.
1618–1635 Patrick Forbes
1635–1638 Adam Bellenden Translated from the bishopric of Dunblane; died in 1648. Bishops were abolished in Scotland from 1638 to 1662.
1662 David Mitchel
1663–1664 Alexander Burnet Translated to the archbishopric of Glasgow.
1664–1682 Patrick Scougal
1682–1689 George Haliburton Episcopacy abolished in 1689.

List of Bishops of Aberdeen of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Tenure Incumbent Notes
24 August 1721 to 1724 Archibald Campbell resigned
1724 to 1733 James Gadderar
1733 to 1746 William Dunbar translated from Moray
17 July 1747 to 1767 Andrew Gerard
21 September 1768 to 1786 Robert Kilgour also Primus (1778–1788); resigned
1786 to 1816 John Skinner also Primus (1788–1816)
27 October 1816 to 1857 William Skinner also Primus (1841–1857); son of the preceding
1857 to 1864 Thomas Suther became Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney

List of the modern Bishops of Aberdeen and its precursor offices

(Any dates appearing in italics indicate de facto continuation of office. The start date of tenure below is the date of appointment or succession. Where known, the date of installation and ordination as bishop are listed in the notes together with the post held prior to appointment.)

The modern Bishop of Aberdeen is the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Aberdeen in the Province of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. The diocese covers 29,068 km². The see is in the City of Aberdeen where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The Vicariate Apostolic of the Northern District (formerly the Vicariate Apostolic of the Highland District) was elevated to diocese status on 4 March 1878. The current bishop is the Right Reverend Peter Antony Moran, the 10th Bishop of Aberdeen.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
Vicariate Apostolic of the Highland District
16 September 1727 to 19 September 1727 Father Alexander John Grant, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Died in office
12 February 1731 to 12 March 1773 Bishop Hugh MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Priest; died in office
12 March 1773 to 9 May 1779 Bishop John MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of Highland District; died in office
30 September 1779 to 9 September 1791 Bishop Alexander MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Priest; died in office
8 November 1791 to 8 July 1814 Bishop John Chisholm, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Priest; died in office
8 July 1814 to 31 July 1818 Bishop Aeneas Chisholm, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of Highland District; died in office
27 August 1819 to 13 February 1827 Bishop Ranald MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District Appointed Vicar Apostolic of Western District
Vicariate Apostolic of the Northern District
13 February 1827 to 23 February 1869 Bishop James Kyle, Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District Priest; died in office
23 February 1869 to 15 March 1878 Bishop John MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District; Becoming Bishop of Aberdeen
Diocese of Aberdeen
15 March 1878 to 4 February 1889 John MacDonald Hitherto Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District; died in office
16 July 1889 to 26 September 1889 Colin Grant Priest; ordained 13 August 1889; died in office
14 August 1890 to 29 May 1898 Hugh MacDonald, CSSR Priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer; ordained 23 October 1890; died in office
7 January 1899 to 13 January 1918 Aeneas Chisholm Priest; ordained 24 February 1899; died in office
18 June 1918 to 25 December 1946 George Bennett Priest; ordained 1 August 1918; died in office
2 August 1947 to 5 July 1950 John Matheson Priest; ordained 24 September 1947; died in office
20 June 1951 to 22 July 1963 Francis Walsh MAfr Priest of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) ; ordained 12 September 1951; resigned
8 December 1964 to 28 May 1976 Michael Foylan Priest; ordained 25 March 1965; died in office
28 February 1977 to 15 January 2002 Mario Conti Priest of Aberdeen; ordained 3 May 1977; appointed Archbishop of Glasgow
13 October 2003 to 4 June 2011 Peter Moran Priest of Aberdeen; ordained 1 December 2003; Resigned 4 June 2011
4 June 2011 to present Hugh Gilbert OSB Abbot of Pluscarden (1992-2011); appointed 4 June 2011; ordained 15 August 2011

Titular see of Murthlacum

The Roman Catholic Church maintains a titular see of Murthlacum, the Latin name of Mortlach.[1]


  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Lawrie, Sir Archibald, Early Scottish Charters Prior to A.D. 1153, (Glasgow, 1905)
  • Skene, William Forbes, Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban, 2nd ed., (Edinburgh, 1887), vol. ii
  • Joseph Haydn and Horace Ockerby, The Book of Dignities, 3rd edition, London 1894 (reprinted Bath 1969)

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