Bishop of Ross (Scotland)

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The ruins of Fortrose Cathedral on the Black Isle. After the mid-13th century, it was here, rather than the old Pictish centre of nearby Rosemarkie, where the bishop of Ross had his seat (cathedra).

The Bishop of Ross was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Ross, one of Scotland's 13 medieval bishoprics. The first recorded bishop appears in the late 7th century as a witness to Adomnán of Iona's Cáin Adomnáin. The bishopric was based at the settlement of Rosemarkie until the mid-13th century, afterwards being moved to nearby Fortrose and Fortrose Cathedral. As far as the evidence goes, this bishoric was the oldest of all bishoprics north of the Forth, and was perhaps the only Pictish bishopric until the 9th century. Indeed, the Cáin Adomnáin indicates that in the reign of Bruide mac Der Ilei, king of the Picts, the bishop of Rosemarkie was the only significant figure in Pictland other than the king. The bishopric is located conveniently close to the heartland of Fortriu, being just across the water from Moray.

However, in the High and Later Middle Ages, the bishopric was only of medium-to-low status in the Scottish church. The Bishopric's 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 in 1689.

List of known bishops and abbots of Ross maic Bairend

Tenure Incumbent Notes
fl. 690x710 Curetán Later named or conflated with St Boniface. He is listed as one of the witnesses in the Cáin Adomnáin, where he is called "Curetan epscop". In the Martyrology of Tallaght he is called "of Ross Mand Bairend" and in the Martyrology of O'Gorman he is styled "bishop and abbot of Ross maic Bairend". It is modern histiography that places this location at Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, Ross.

List of known bishops of Ross

Tenure Incumbent Notes
fl. 1127 x 1131 Mac Bethad of Rosemarkie
fl. 1147 x 1151-1155 Symeon of Rosemarkie
1161-1195 Gregoir of Rosemarkie
1195-1213 Reinald Macer Former monk of Melrose Abbey.
1213 x 1214 Andreas de Moravia Was elected, but got permission from the Pope to resign.
1214-1249 Robert (elder)
1249-1271 Robert (younger)
1272-1274 Matthew
1275-1292 x 1295 Robert de Fyvie
1292 x 1295-1295 Adam de Darlington After the death of Bishop Robert (III.) de Fyvie, both Adam, precentor of Ross, and Thomas de Dundee were elected to the see. "Master Adam" voyaged to Rome resigned his claim in Thomas' favour; became Bishop of Caithness in the following year.
1293 x 1295-1325 Thomas de Dundee
1325-1350 Roger Perhaps the same as Roger de Balnebrich, unsuccessful Bishop-elect of Dunblane.
1350-1371 Alexander Stewart
1371-1398 Alexander de Kylwos
1398-1416 x 1418 Alexander de Waghorn
1416 x 1418 Thomas Lyell It appears that, although he appears briefly in the sources as "Bishop elect", he never appears to have been consecrated, namely because Avignon Pope Benedict XIII had reserved the see for his own appointment.
1418-1422 Gruffydd Young Anti-Bishop during schism. Welshman, formerly Bishop of Bangor. Never obtained possession, but retained title until made titular Bishop of Hippo.
1418-1439 x 1440 John Bullock
1440-1441 Andrew Munro Previously, Archdeacon of Ross. He had been postulated by the chapter, but despite great expense and effort, Pope Eugene IV disallowed the postulation and appointed the bishopric to Thomas de Tulloch.
1440-1460 x 1461 Thomas de Tulloch
1461-1476 Henry Cockburn
1476-1480x1481 John Woodman
1481-1483 William Elphinstone Was provided by Pope Sixtus IV, but in 1483 was translated to the Bishopric of Aberdeen.
1483-1488 x 1492 Thomas Hay
1492-1492 x 1494 John Guthrie
1497-1507 John Fraser
1507-1524 Robert Cockburn Translated to bishopric of Dunkeld in 1524.
1523-1538 James Hay
1538-1545 Robert Cairncross
1547-1558 David Panter
1558-1565 Henry Sinclair
1566-1568/73/92 John Lesley Most famous bishop of Ross, because of his work as a historian. He was forfeited on 19 August 1568 (though still acting as bishop in 1573) for his catholic and Marian sympathies by the Scottish church, but had his position reaffirmed by the Papacy. He was rehabilitated as Bishop between March 1587 and May 1589. He was translated as the Bishop of Coutances in 1592. Died 31 May 1596.
1574-1578 Alexander Hepburn See above.
1600-1613 David Lindsay
1613-1633 Patrick Lindsay Became Archbishop of Glasgow.
1633-1638 John Maxwell Episcopacy abolished in December 1638. Maxwell became Bishop of Killala and Achonry in 1641 and Archbishop of Tuam in 1645.
1662-1679 John Paterson First bishop in the "Restoration Episcopate".
1679-1684 Alexander Young Previously Bishop of Edinburgh. Died 1684.
1684-1689 James Ramsay Previously Bishop of Dunblane. Deprived of his see with the Abolition of Episcopacy in the Church of Scotland, 22 July 1689.


  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500–1286, 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922), vol. i
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops: Down to the Year 1688, (London, 1824)
  • 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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