Ancient Diocese of the Faroe Islands
As recorded in the Færeyinga saga, Sigmundur Brestisson came to the Faroes and converted the people to Christianity more or less one by one. He was eventually attacked at his home by his first (forced) convert, Tróndur í Gøtu, swam to another island to escape, and was finally killed by a farmer for his gold jewelry.
There is some confusion as to when the first bishop for the islands was consecrated, as Adam of Bremen notes that a self-proclaimed bishop of Helgoland was referred to in Latin as the bishop of "Farria."
The bishops of the Faroe Islands were usually chosen from the canons of the Diocese of Bergen and were originally suffragans of the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen. The diocese was granted to Lund in 1104 and then Niðaros after 1152. The see was based at Kirkjubøur, which legend holds was given to Bishop Orm by Gæsa Sigursdottir as a penance for her having eaten meat during Lent. Some of the bishops are known to have kept mistresses, and it was reported that clergy in the Faroes would on occasion demand prima nocte rights.
Amund Olafson was the last Roman Catholic bishop of the islands and was forced to yield his see and title to the Lutheran superintendent Jens Riber. Later, only "provosts" were elected. The Catholic clergy were unable to resist the advance of Lutheranism. By the end of 16th century, the Catholic faith had disappeared.
In the Catholic era, at least, no little attention paid to the construction and adornment of churches, as may be seen from the ruins of the unfinished Magnus Cathedral of Kirkjubøur. The thick basaltic walls broken by high, massive windows are evidence that the original builders meant to erect a Gothic church. It remained unfinished.
List of the bishops of the Faroe Islands
- 1047-1067—Bernhard Sakseren, missionary bishop
- Late 11th century—Ryngerus, missionary bishop
- c. 1100-1137—Gudmund
- 1138-?—Orm, who acquired Kirkjubøur
- ?-1157—Matthew I [or] Martin I
- 1162-1174—Roe, who taught Sverre Sigurdsson, king of Norway after 1184
- 1216-1237?—Serquirus [or] Sverker
- c. 1245—Nicholas(?) [doubtful]
- 1269-1308—Erlandr (Erland), who expanded church holdings throughout the islands
- 1313?-1316—Lodin of Borgund
- 1350?-1359—Arne I
- 1359-1369—Arne II Svæla
- ?—Andrew [elected, but likely unconsecrated]
- ?—Arnold(?) [doubtful]
- 1385-?—William Northbrigg
- ?—Vigbold [or] Vigbald
- 1391—Philip Gudbrandsson of Nidaros [elected, but likely unconsecrated]
- 1392?—Halgier [likely unconsecrated]
- 1408-1430?—Jon I the German
- 1432-1434—Severinus, also bishop of Tranquilia
- 1434?—Jon II the Dominican
- 1434-?—Jon III the Chief
- 1453-?—Jon IV
- ?—Matthew II [or] Martin II
- ?—Hilary(?) [questionable]
- 1532?–1538?—Ámundur Ólavsson (Amund), last Catholic bishop, ordered by Christian III to leave his mistress and his office
- 1540-1556—Jens Riber, Lutheran, last bishop
- G.V.C. Young: From the Vikings to the Reformation. A Chronicle of the Faroe Islands up to 1538. Isle of Man: Shearwater Press, 1979.