Bishop of the Isles

The Bishop of the Isles or Bishop of Sodor was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of the Isles (or Sodor), one of Scotland's thirteen medieval bishoprics. The bishopric, encompassing 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.

List of precursor bishoprics

List of known bishops of Iona

Tenure Incumbent Notes
d. 623Fergno Britt mac FaílbiWas one of the companions of Saint Columba. He was the 4th abbot of Iona, and is also styled "bishop".
fl. x697-712CoeddiThe Annals of Ulster, s.a. 712.1, records his death and styles him Coeddi episcopus Iae (i.e. "Coeddi, Bishop of Iona").
d. 713DorbbéneDunchad 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 centuryPatrickTestified as bishop "i Suðreyjam" (in the Hebrides) in Norse sources, was perhaps merely a legendary figure.
d. 963FothadAccording 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. 966FinguineThe 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. 660DaniélThe Annals of Ulster, s.a. 660.1, records the death of this "and Daniél, bishop of Cenn Garad".
d. 689IolánThe 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
fl. 1079x1095Hamond
el. 1103x1108AnonymousAn 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
1134x 1148WimundDescribed 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 1148x 1152Nicholas (I.)Presented by Óláfr Guðrøðarson, King of the Isles to the Dean of York for consecration; no evidence positively that he took office.
1151 x 11521152 x 1154John (I.)Not known to have possessed his see. He was probably a candidate of the Archbishop of York who proved unacceptable to Óláfr.
11541154 x 1166 Gamaliel
1154 x 11661170Reginald (I.)A Norwegian; called, variously, Reinarb, Reinar, Nemar and Nemarr.
11661170 x 1194ChristianIt is possible that this is the same as Christian, Bishop of Whithorn.
x 11941203Michael
1203 x 12101217Nicholas (II.)Also called Koli, a Scandinavian shortening of Nicholas.
1217 x 1226Reginald (II.)A relation 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 12191224 x 1225Nicholas de MeauxWas Abbot of Furness.
1224 x 12261226John (II.), son of HefarDied in an accident soon after becoming bishop.
1248LaurenceLaurence 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.
12531275Richard [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. 1275GilbertAn Englishman. Previously Abbot of Rushen, he was apparently elected to the see after the death of Bishop Richard. However, Alexander III, King of Scotland ignored the election and installed instead Mark.
12751303MarkLatin: Marcus. A native of Galloway. Blind at his death in 1303.
1303 x 13051322AlanScottish Gaelic: Ailean. Died in office.
13241326 x 1327Gilbert MaclellanScottish Gaelic: Giolla-Brighde Mac Giolla-Faoláin. A native of Galloway. Died in office.
1327 x 13281328 x 1331Bernard of Kilwinning
1331Cormac CormaciiScottish Gaelic: Cormac Mac Chormaic. Elected by canons of Skye, but does not appear to have obtained confirmation.
13311348Thomas de Rossy
13491374William Russell
13741387/1392John DonganDeprived 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
13871409MichaelTranslated from Cashel by Antipope Clement VII, upon deprivation of Dongan.
1410c.1421Richard PaylTranslated from Dromore by Antipope John XXIII. Recognised bishop of the Isles until c.1421 and bishop of Mann until c.1429/33.
prov. 1422Michael OchiltreeReceived papal provision, but was aborted.
14261437 x 1441Angus (I.)Scottish Gaelic: Aonghas.
14411467 x 1472John Hectoris MacGilleonScottish Gaelic: Eóin Mac Gill-Eathain.
14721479 x 1480Angus (II.)Scottish Gaelic: Aonghas.
14871490John Campbell (I.)Scottish Gaelic: Eóin Caimbeul.
15101513George Hepburn
15141532John Campbell (II.)Scottish Gaelic: Eóin Caimbeul. 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. 1529James StewartThe Abbot of Dryburgh, nominated unsuccessfully by the crown.
15281544 x 1546Ferchar MacEachanScottish Gaelic: Fearchar Mac Eachainn, also recorded as Fearchar/Ferquhard "MacCachane" and "Hecotris".
15441552 x 1553Roderick MacLeanScottish Gaelic: Ruaidhri Mac Gill-Eathain.
15451546Roderick MacAllisterScottish Gaelic: Ruaidhri Mac Alasdair. Candidate of Domhnall Dubh.
1547John HayNames occurs as "postulate of Sodor" in English source dating 1547. Nothing else known.
15471552Patrick MacleanScottish Gaelic: Padraig Mac Gill-Eain.
15541559Alexander GordonNominal Archbishop of Athens.
15571560 x 1562John Campbell (III.)Scottish Gaelic: Eóin Caimbeul.
nom. 1564 x 1565 Patrick Maclean (again)Scottish Gaelic: Padraig Mac Gill-Eathain. Transferred his nomination to Séon Carsuel in exchange for pension.
15651572Séon CarsuelAnglicised: John Carswell.
1567Lachlan MacleanScottish Gaelic: Lachlann Mac Gill-Eathain. Obtained provision in secret from Mary, Queen of Scots. Transferred his rights to Carswell.
15721592 x 1594John Campbell (III.) (again)Scottish Gaelic: Eóin Caimbeul.
16051618 x 1619Andrew KnoxTranslated to Raphoe in 1610, but retained The Isles until 1618/19.
16191627 x 1628Thomas Knox
16281633John LeslieTranslated to Raphoe.
16341638Neil CampbellScottish Gaelic: Niall Caimbeul.
16381662Episcopacy temporally abolished.
16621669Robert WallaceDied in office.
16741676James RamsayTranslated from Dunblane on 28 July 1674. Translated back to Dunblane in April 1676.
16771680Andrew WoodTranslated to Caithness in 1680.
16801689Archibald Graham
In 1689, the Episcopacy was abolished in the Church of Scotland.



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