Gilbert of Caithness

(d. 1245)

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Adam (c. 1152—1222) abbot of Melrose and bishop of Caithness


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(d. 1245),

bishop. The son of William de Moravia, lord of Duffus and Strabrok, who owned immense estates in northern Scotland, Gilbert became archdeacon of Moray, being appointed by King Alexander II with responsibilities for secular and religious government in a notoriously turbulent area. His enemies there set fire to his account-books; their survival was believed to be a miracle. In 1223, after the violent death of Adam of Caithness and the punishment of his murderers and their kin by the king, Gilbert was appointed bishop to succeed him. Notable achievements of his episcopate were the building of the cathedral of Dornoch, whose statutes were modelled on those of Moray and Lincoln, and the provision of several hospices for the poor. He enjoyed a reputation as a fine preacher and administrator who, in his twenty years of peaceful rule, did much to civilize his diocese. He became the patron saint of his cathedral and diocese; his relics were venerated until the Reformation and were used for the swearing of oaths until 1545. There is no evidence that he was, as is sometimes asserted ‘high steward to several monarchs’, nor can he be identified with the Gilbert who, at the council of Northampton in 1176, made an impassioned speech in favour of Scots' ecclesiastical independence of the see of York. Feast: 1 April.

K.S.S, pp. 355–6; D.N.B., s.v.

Subjects: Christianity.

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