Bishop of Orkney

Last updated

The Romanesque interior of St Magnus Cathedral, the seat of the bishops of Orkney St Magnus Cathedral Kirkwall interior.jpg
The Romanesque interior of St Magnus Cathedral, the seat of the bishops of Orkney

The Bishop of Orkney was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Orkney, one of thirteen medieval bishoprics of Scotland. It included both Orkney and Shetland. It was based for almost all of its history at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.


The bishopric appears to have been suffragan of the Archbishop of York (with intermittent control exercised by the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen) until the creation of the Archbishopric of Trondheim ( Niðaros ) in 1152. Although Orkney itself did not unite with mainland Scotland until 1468, the Scottish kings and political community had been pushing for control of the islands for centuries. The see, however, remained under the nominal control of Trondheim until the creation of the Archbishopric of St Andrews in 1472, when it became for the first time an officially Scottish bishopric.

The Bishopric's links with Rome ceased to exist after the Scottish Reformation. The bishopric continued, saving temporary abolition between 1638 and 1661, under the episcopal Church of Scotland until the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Episcopacy in the established church in Scotland was permanently abolished in 1689, but a Scottish Episcopal Church bishopric encompassing Orkney was created in 1865, as the Bishopric of Aberdeen and Orkney. In 1878, the Catholic Church in Scotland re-established the bishopric system, and Orkney came under the resurrected and reformatted Diocese of Aberdeen.

Parishes in the medieval period



  1. Birsay (Mainland)
  2. Burness (Sanday)
  3. Burray
  4. Cross (Sanday)
  5. Deerness (Mainland)
  6. Eday
  7. Egilsay
  8. Evie (Mainland)
  9. Firth (Mainland)
  10. Flotta
  11. Graemsay
  12. Harray (Mainland)
  13. Holm (& Pablay) (Mainland)
  14. Hoy
  15. Lady (Sanday)
  16. Lady (Stronsay)
  17. North Ronaldsay
  18. Orphir (Mainland)
  19. Papa Westray
  20. Rendall (Mainland)
  21. Rousay
  22. Sandwick (Mainland)
  23. Shapinsay
  24. St Andrews (Mainland)
  25. St Mary's (South Ronaldsay)
  26. St Nicholas (Stronsay)
  27. St Peter's (South Ronaldsay)
  28. St Peter's (Stronsay)
  29. Stenness (Mainland)
  30. Stromness (Mainland)
  31. Walls
  32. Westray


  1. Aithsting (Mainland)
  2. Baliasta (Unst)
  3. Bressay
  4. Burra
  5. Cunningsburgh (Mainland)
  6. Delting (Mainland)
  7. Dunrossness (Mainland)
  8. Fair Isle
  9. Fetlar
  10. Foula
  11. Hillswick (Mainland)
  12. Laxavoe (Mainland)
  13. Lerwick (Mainland)
  14. Lund (Unst)
  15. Lunnasting (Mainland)
  16. Nesting (Mainland)
  17. Northmavine (Mainland)
  18. Northrew (Mainland)
  19. Norwick (Unst)
  20. Ollaberry (Mainland)
  21. Olnafirth (Mainland)
  22. Papa Stour
  23. Quarff (Mainland)
  24. Sandness (Mainland)
  25. Sandwick (Mainland)
  26. Tingwall (Mainland)
  27. Walls (Mainland)
  28. Weisdale (Mainland)
  29. Whalsay
  30. Whiteness (Mainland)
  31. Yell

List of known bishops of Orkney

Bishops of Orkney
1035 (?) ? Henry of Lund Keeper of the treasury of King Cnut; probably the latter's appointee. Name unusual for an Englishman; may have been a German or a Frenchman.
fl. 1043–1072 Thorulf of Orkney Sent as bishop by Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg.
fl. 1043–1072 John (I)Appointee of the Archbishop of Bremen. Perhaps the same as Johannes Scotus, bishop of Glasgow.
fl. 1043–1072 Adalbert Sent as bishop to Iceland, Greenland and Orkney, by Adalbert, Archbishop of Hamburg.
fl. 1073Radulf
fl. 1100–1108Roger
11091114–1147 Radulf Novell He was consecrated by Thomas, Archbishop of York. There is no evidence that Radulf ever took possession of his see, nor that he ever visited Orkney. Subordinate of the Archbishop of York. Served as the vicar of the Bishop of Durham.
c.1112–1168 William the Old (I)
11881194–1223 Bjarni Kolbeinsson Skald
12231224–1246JofreyrrJofreyrr is Godfrey.
bef. 13691382–1383William(IV)
13841394John(II)The Roman bishop. He was elected by the cathedral chapter. His election was declared null and void by Pope Urban VI, but the latter provided him to the see in 1384. Pope Boniface IX translated him to the Bishopric of Garðar, Greenland.
13831391 Robert Sinclair The Avignon bishop, in contrast to John, the candidate of the Roman Pope. The doubling of bishops was a product of the Western Schism. His election drew hesitancy from the Avignon Pope Clement VII, but had been confirmed by 27 January 1384. He was translated to the Bishopric of Dunkeld sometime before March 1391.
1394Henry(II or III)Second Roman bishop. Previously Bishop of Greenland, he exchanged bishoprics with Bishop John.
13961397–1418John PakThe third Roman bishop of the Western Schism. He had been a monk of Colchester. He appears as "Johannes Anglus, bishop of Orkney" in the Union Treaty of Kalmar.
13981407–1414 Alexander Vaus Second Avignon bishop. Provided by Pope Benedict XIII, but was not consecrated within the canonical time. He was translated to the Bishopric of Caithness in 1414.
14151419 William Stephani Third Avignon bishop, provided by Pope Benedict XIII. He was translated to the Bishopric of Dunblane in 1419.
14181461 Thomas Tulloch Fourth Roman bishop. He was accepted by both sides after the recognition of the "Roman" Popes by the Scottish king.
14611477 William Tulloch
14771503–1506Andrew PictorisIt is not known what Andrew's surname was. Scottish historians have assumed, wrongly, that he was a Scot called Painter. Andrew was German, and his illegitimate son was called Henry Phankouth.
1503–15061524–1525Edward StewartCoadjutor since 1498–1500.
15231525–1526John Benston
15261540–1541Robert Maxwell
15411558 Robert Reid O. Cist.
15591593 Adam Bothwell He became a Protestant, and in 1568 exchanged the temporalities of the see (which went to Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney) for Holyrood Abbey. He died in 1593, still styling himself "Bischop of Orkney, Commendatair of Halyrudhous". He was an uncle of the mathematician John Napier.
16051615 James Law Became Archbishop of Glasgow.
16151638 George Graham Translated from Bishopric of Dunblane.
16381662Between 1638 and the Restoration, Episcopacy in Scotland was temporarily abolished.
16621663 Thomas Sydserf Translated from Bishopric of Galloway.
16641676 Andrew Honeyman [2] or Honyman
16771688 Murdoch MacKenzie Translated from the Bishopric of Moray.
16881688 Andrew Bruce Episcopacy abolished in Scotland. Bruce died in 1700.

Related Research Articles

Orkney Archipelago, county and council area in northern Scotland

Orkney, also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of the island of Great Britain. Orkney is 10 miles (16 km) north of the coast of Caithness and has about 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited. The largest island, Mainland, is often referred to as "the Mainland", and has an area of 523 square kilometres (202 sq mi), making it the sixth-largest Scottish island and the tenth-largest island in the British Isles. Orkney’s largest settlement, and also its administrative centre, is Kirkwall.


Stronsay is an island in Orkney, Scotland. It is known as Orkney's 'Island of Bays', owing to an irregular shape with miles of coastline, with three large bays separated by two isthmuses: St Catherine's Bay to the west, the Bay of Holland to the south and Mill Bay to the east. Stronsay is 3,275 hectares in area, and 44 metres in altitude at its highest point. It has a usually resident population of 349. The main village is Whitehall, home to a heritage centre.

Archbishop of Glasgow

The Archbishop of Glasgow is an archiepiscopal title that takes its name after the city of Glasgow in Scotland. The position and title was abolished by the Church of Scotland in 1689; and, in the Scottish Episcopal Church, it is now part of the Episcopal bishopric of Glasgow and Galloway. In the Roman Catholic Church, the title was restored by Pope Leo XIII in 1878.

Archbishop of St Andrews

The Bishop of St. Andrews was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of St Andrews and then, from 14 August 1472, as Archbishop of St Andrews, the Archdiocese of St Andrews.

Bishop of Ross (Scotland)

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 bishopric 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.

The Bishop of Moray or Bishop of Elgin was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Moray in northern Scotland, one of Scotland's 13 medieval bishoprics. If the foundation charter of the monastery at Scone is reliable, then the Bishopric of Moray was in existence as early as the reign of King Alexander I of Scotland (1107–1124), but was certainly in existence by 1127, when one Gregoir ("Gregorius") is mentioned as "Bishop of Moray" in a charter of king David I of Scotland. The bishopric had its seat at Elgin and Elgin Cathedral, but was severally at Birnie, Kinneddar and as late as Bishop Andreas de Moravia at Spynie, where the bishops continued to maintain a palace. 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. The Bishops fortified seat for over 500 years was at Spynie Palace.

Bishop of Dunblane

The Bishop of Dunblane or Bishop of Strathearn was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Dunblane or Strathearn, one of medieval Scotland's thirteen bishoprics. It was based at Dunblane Cathedral, now a parish church of the Church of Scotland. The bishopric itself certainly derives from an older Gaelic Christian community. According to legend, the Christian community of Dunblane was derived from the mission of St. Bláán, a saint originally associated with the monastery of Cenn Garath (Kingarth) on the Isle of Bute. Although the bishopric had its origins in the 1150s or before, the cathedral was not built nor was the seat (cathedra) of the diocese fixed at Dunblane until the episcopate of Clement.

John D. Mackay was a Scottish schoolteacher. He taught on Stronsay and North Ronaldsay before working as headmaster of Sanday School between 1946 and 1970.

Orkney Ferries

Orkney Ferries is a Scottish company operating inter-island ferry services in the Orkney Islands.

George Haliburton was a Scottish cleric and Jacobite. Haliburton received his education at St Salvator's College, St Andrews, obtaining a Master of Arts on 12 June 1652, and a Doctorate in Divinity in 1673.

Patrick Forbes

Patrick Forbes was a late 16th-century and early 17th-century Scottish churchman.

This is a list of places in Scotland called Papa or similar, which are so named after the Papar, monks from the Early Historic Period or from their connection to other, later priests.

Diocese of the Isles

The Diocese of the Isles, also known as the Diocese of Suðreyar, or the Diocese of Sodor, was one of the dioceses of medieval Norway. After the mid-13th-century Treaty of Perth, the diocese was accounted as one of the 13 dioceses of Scotland. The original seat of the bishopric appears to have been at Peel, on St Patrick's Isle, where indeed it continued to be under English overlordship; the Bishopric of the Isles as it was after the split was relocated to the north, firstly to Snizort and then Iona.

Archdiocese of St Andrews Episcopal jurisdiction in early modern and medieval Scotland

The Diocese or Archdiocese of St Andrews was a territorial episcopal jurisdiction in early modern and medieval Scotland. It was the largest, most populous and wealthiest diocese of the medieval Scottish church, with territory in eastern Scotland stretching from Berwickshire and the Anglo-Scottish border to Aberdeenshire.


  1. "Parish List – Scottish Place-Name Society" . Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  2. "Honeyman, Andrew (Bishop of Orkney) (CCEd Bishop ID 1333)". The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540–1835 . Retrieved 2 February 2014.