Diocese of Moray

Coordinates: 57°21′36″N 3°46′59″W / 57.360°N 3.783°W / 57.360; -3.783

The Diocese of Moray was one of the most important of the medieval dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. Its territory was in central northern Scotland.

Diocese of Moray
Diocese of Moray.jpg
HeadBishop of Moray
Archdeacon(s)Archdeacon of Moray
Known rural deansElgin, Inverness, Strathbogie, Strathspey
First attestation1114 x 1120
Metropolitan before 1472None
Metropolitan after 1492Archbishop of St Andrews
CathedralElgin Cathedral
Previous cathedral(s)Birnie, Kinneddar and Spynie
DedicationHoly Trinity
Catholic successorMerged into resurrected Diocese of Aberdeen, 4 March 1878
Episcopal successorDiocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness


It was founded in the early years of the 12th century by David I of Scotland under its first bishop, Gregoir. It was suppressed in 1638 and never revived as a titular see.

Bishops of MorayEdit

Bishop Bricius organised the constitution of the church, but it was Bishop Andreas who increased the number of dignitaries and prebend canons and was responsible for gaining large grants of land from his kinsmen, the powerful de Moravia lords, as well as from the king. In the year of his death, Andreas changed the cathedral's constitution to mirror that of Salisbury.[1]

Other bishops made a lasting impact on the diocese; probably the most important of these was Alexander Bur (1362–1397), who championed the right of the Moray church to retain its property against a ruthless magnate, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, called the "Wolf of Badenoch".[2]

Apparently the see served repeatedly as a stepping stone:

  • Bishop Henry de Lichton (18 May 1414 – April 1422) went on to become bishop of Aberdeen
  • Andrew Forman (26 November 1501 – 1514) became Metropolitan Archbishop, first of Bourges (France) (15 July 1513 – 1514), then of St Andrews (1514 – 11 March 1521)

The last of the Roman Catholic bishops was Patrick Hepburn, who alienated almost all of the lands pertaining to the church at the time of the Scottish Reformation.

Other officialsEdit

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, Charles Fyvie (of Inverness) was Dean of the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Argyle in 1846[3] until the dioceses were reconfigured, then Dean of Moray and Ross until 1849, when he was succeeded by William C. A. Maclaurin (of Elgin).[4]

Extent and DeaneriesEdit

The diocese covered a large area extending from Huntly in the east, within a few miles of the Knoydart Peninsula in the west and, in the south-west, to the Atlantic Ocean at an inlet of Loch Linnhe in Lochaber.

It was divided into the four deaneries of Elgin, Inverness, Strathbogie and Strathspey. Each of these deaneries contained a number of parishes that provided the mensal and prebendal means for the church.


The early Moray bishops did not have a fixed seat but took their cathedrals to the culdee centres at Birnie, Kinneddar and lastly Spynie.

Spynie CathedralEdit

Bishop Bricius de Douglas finally obtained permission from Pope Innocent III on 7 April 1206 to fix the cathedral at the Church of the Holy Trinity at Spynie.[6]

Authorisation was also granted to create a chapter of eight canons to administer the cathedral. The chapter based its constitution on that of Lincoln Cathedral.[7] It is possible that this decision may have been influenced by the fact that Bricius' immediate predecessor was Bishop Richard de Lincoln.

Elgin CathedralEdit

Bricius saw that Spynie was too remote from those it sought to serve; to ensure the safety of the clergy, he petitioned the pope to allow the church to be moved to the relative safety of Elgin.[8] It was not until after his death, however, that this was achieved under the episcopate of Bishop Andreas de Moravia,[9] and with the authority of Pope Honorius III and King Alexander II on 19 July 1224.[10]


  1. ^ Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis no. 81
  2. ^ Discussion on the quarrel, see: (1) Grant, Alexander: The Wolf of Badenoch in Moray: Province and People; ed. Seller, W. D. H. Edinburgh, pp. 143—161; (2) Oram, Richard D. "Alexander Bur, Bishop of Moray, 1362–1397" in Barbara Crawford (ed.) Church Chronicle and Learning in Medieval and Early Renaissance Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999, pp. 202—204
  3. ^ The Clergy List, 1846 p. 263
  4. ^ The Clergy List, 1849 p. 282
  5. ^ McNeil, MacQueen, Atlas of Scottish History, p. 355
  6. ^ Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis no. 46
  7. ^ Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis, nos. 48, 49 and 93
  8. ^ Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis no. 45
  9. ^ Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis nos. 26, 57 and 58
  10. ^ Cant, Robert: Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, Elgin: Elgin Society, 1974, p. 23

Sources and referencesEdit