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Bishop of the Isles

Arms of the Diocese of the Isles.

The Bishop of the Isles or Bishop of Sodor was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Sodor, one of Scotland's thirteen medieval bishoprics. The bishopric, encompasing both the Hebrides and Mann, probably traces its origins as an ecclesiastical unity to the careers of Olaf, King of the Isles, and Bishop Wimund. Previously, there had been numerous bishoprics, and recorded bishoprics include Kingarth, Iona, Skye and Mann. There were very likely numerous others.


  • Diocese of the Isles 1
  • List of precursor bishoprics 2
    • List of known bishops of Iona 2.1
    • List of known bishops of Cenn Garad 2.2
    • List of known bishops of Mann 2.3
  • Bishops of the Isles 3
    • List of known bishops of Isles (including Mann) 3.1
    • List of bishops of the Isles (excluding Mann) 3.2
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Diocese of the Isles

List of precursor bishoprics

List of known bishops of Iona

Tenure Incumbent Notes
d. 623 Fergno Britt mac Faílbi Was one of the companions of Saint Columba. He was the 4th abbot of Iona, and is also styled "bishop".
fl. x697-712 Coeddi The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 712.1, records his death and styles him Coeddi episcopus Iae (i.e. "Coeddi, Bishop of Iona").
d. 713 Dorbbéne Dunchad appears to have been Abbot of Iona during Dorbbéne's time in charge. The abbacy was either divided or Dorbbéne was bishop while Dunchad was abbot.
fl. mid. 9th century Patrick Testified as bishop "i Suðreyjam" (in the Hebrides) in Norse sources, was perhaps merely a legendary figure.
d. 963 Fothad According to the Annals of the Four Masters, s.a. 961.3 (=s.a. 963), he was Fothadh, mac Brain, scribhnidh & espucc Insi Alban; that is, "Fothad, son of Bran, scribe and bishop of the islands of Scotland". We know from other sources that he was probably bishop of Cennrígmonaid (i.e. St. Andrews), or at least, "High Bishop of Scotland" without a specific see.
d. 966 Finguine The Annals of the Four Masters record his death in 966 (=s.a. M964.3) as "anchorite and Bishop of Iona".

List of known bishops of Cenn Garad

Kingarth was a church on the Isle of Bute, supposedly founded by Saint Chattan and Saint Blane. Three abbots are known, but only two bishops. Sadly, little is known about the abbey, bishopric and individual clerics.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
d. 660 Daniél The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 660.1, records the death of this "and Daniél, bishop of Cenn Garad".
d. 689 Iolán The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 689.1, record the death of this Iolán, "bishop of Cenn Garad".

List of known bishops of Mann

Tenure Incumbent Notes
x1079 Roolwer
x1079 William
fl. 1079x1095 Hamond
el. 1103x1108 Anonymous An unnamed bishop is presented for consecration to Gerard, the Archbishop of York. He may or may not have been Wimund.

Bishops of the Isles

List of known bishops of Isles (including Mann)

The list of bishops known to have ruled the whole of what became the Diocese of the Isles (Sodor).

Tenure Incumbent Notes
1134–x 1148 Wimund Described as bishop of sancta ecclesia de Schith "holy church of Skye" (1109 x 1114). His bishopric may have been confined to Skye until 1134 x 1138, when he was definitely bishop of the Isles and Mann.
x 1148–x 1152 Nicholas (I.) Presented by King Olaf of Mann to the Archbishop of York for consecration; no evidence positively that he took office.
1151 x 1152–1152 x 1154 John (I.) Not known to have possessed his see. He was probably a candidate of the Archbishop of York who proved unacceptable to King Olaf.
1154–1154 x 1166 Gamaliel
1154 x 1166–1170 Reginald (I.) A Norwegian; called, variously, Reinarb, Reinar, Nemar and Nemarr.
1166–1170 x 1194 Christian It is possible that this is the same as Christian, Bishop of Whithorn.
x 1194–1203 Michael
1203 x 1210–1217 Nicholas (II.) Also called Koli, Scandinavian shortening of Nicholas.
1217 x 1226 Reginald (II.) A member of the royal family of the Isles. May not have had the support of Furness Abbey, who at that point held the right to elect the Bishop of the Isles.
1217 x 1219–1224 x 1225 Nicholas of Meaux Was Abbot of Furness.
1224 x 1226–1226 John (II.), son of Hefar Died in an accident soon after becoming bishop.
1226–1248 Simon
1248 Laurence Laurence had been the archdeacon of Mann, and was elected to the bishopric after the death of Bishop Simon. He presented himself to the King of Norway and the Archbishop of Trondheim; the king would not agree to the election until he had visited personally; however, Laurence and his party drowned near Shetland on the voyage back to Mann.
1253–1275 Richard [de Natherton?] An Englishman who was a canon of St Andrews Cathedral Priory in Scotland. Surname "de Natherton" is hypothetical, but supported by evidence.
el. 1275 Gilbert An Englishman. Previously Abbot of Rushen, he was apparently elected to the see after the death of Bishop Richard. However, King Alexander III of Scotland ignored the election and installed instead Mark.
1275–1303 Mark Latin: Marcus . A native of Galloway. Blind at his death in 1303.
1303 x 1305–1322 Alan . Died in office.
1324–1326 x 1327 Gilbert Maclellan . A native of Galloway. Died in office.
1327 x 1328–1328 x 1331 Bernard of Kilwinning
1331 Cormac Cormacii . Elected by canons of Skye, but does not appear to have obtained confirmation.
1331–1348 Thomas de Rossy
1349–1374 William Russell
1374–1387/1392 John Dongan Deprived of bishopric in 1387 by Scottish-backed Avignon Pope Clement VII. Continued in English-controlled Mann until 1392, but from 1387 onwards the diocese has permanently split into two parts.

List of bishops of the Isles (excluding Mann)

The bishopric of the Isles became divided, primarily because the see became divided between the kings of England and Scotland. The English had taken over Mann, leaving the other islands to the north under Scottish overlordship.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
1387–1409 Michael Translated from Cashel by Antipope Clement VII, upon deprivation of Dongan.
1410–c.1421 Richard Payl Translated from Dromore by Antipope John XXIII. Recognised bishop of the Isles until c.1421 and bishop of Mann until c.1429/33.
prov. 1422 Michael Ochiltree Received papal provision, but was aborted.
1426–1437 x 1441 Angus (I.) .
1441–1467 x 1472 John Hectoris MacGilleon : Eóin Mac Gill-Eathain .
1472–1479 x 1480 Angus (II.) .
1487–1490 John Campbell (I.) .
1510–1513 George Hepburn
1514–1532 John Campbell (II.) . Received papal provision but never paid for it, so had still not been confirmed when he resigned his right to Fearchar Mac Eachainn in 1528 and in 1532.
nom. 1529 James Stewart The Abbot of Dryburgh, nominated unsuccessfully by the crown.
1528–1544 x 1546 Ferchar MacEachan , also recorded as Fearchar/Ferquhard "MacCachane" and "Hecotris".
1544–1552 x 1553 Roderick Maclean .
1545–1546 Roderick MacAllister . Candidate of Domhnall Dubh.
1547 John Hay Names occurs as "postulate of Sodor" in English source dating 1547. Nothing else known.
1547–1552 Patrick Maclean .
1554–1559 Alexander Gordon Nominal Archbishop of Athens.
1557–1560 x 1562 John Campbell (III.) .
nom. 1564 x 1565 Patrick Maclean (again) . Transferred his nomination to Séon Carsuel in exchange for pension.
1565–1572 Séon Carsuel Anglicised: John Carswell.
1567 Lachlan Maclean . Obtained provision in secret from Mary, Queen of Scots. Transferred his rights to Carswell.
1572–1592 x 1594 John Campbell (III.) (again) .
1605–1618 x 1619 Andrew Knox Translated to Raphoe in 1610, but retained The Isles until 1618/19.
1619–1627 x 1628 Thomas Knox
1628–1633 John Leslie Translated to Raphoe.
1634–1638 Neil Campbell .
1638–1662 Episcopacy temporally abolished.
1662–1669 Robert Wallace Died in office.
1674–1676 James Ramsay Translated from Dunblane on 28 July 1674. Translated back to Dunblane in April 1676.
1677–1680 Andrew Wood Translated to Caithness in 1680.
1680–1689 Archibald Graham
In 1689, the Episcopacy was abolished in the Church of Scotland.



  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500–1286, 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922).
  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500–1286, (London, 1908), republished, Marjorie Anderson (ed.) (Stamford, 1991)
  • Oram, Richard, The Lordship of Galloway, (Edinburgh, 2000)
  • Watt, D. E. R., "Bishops in the Isles before 1203: Bibliography and Biographical Lists", in The Innes Review, Volume 45, 1994, pp. 99–119

External links

  • Annals of the Four Masters
    • Translation
  • Annals of Ulster
    • Translation

Category:People associated with Highland (council area)*

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