Adam of Melrose

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Adam of Melrose (died 1222) was Abbot of Melrose and Bishop of Caithness, famously burned to death by the husbandmen of Caithness.

He rose to the position of Abbot in 1207, and on 5 August 1213, was elected to the bishopric of Caithness, then based at Halkirk. On 11 May 1214, he was consecrated by William de Malveisin, Bishop of St. Andrews, with Walter, Bishop of Glasgow, and Bricius, Bishop of Moray assisting. Adam, along with Bishop Walter and Bishop Bricius, visited Rome in 1218, to obtain absolution from Pope Honorius III for the sentence of excommunication imposed on King Alexander II and the whole Kingdom of Scotland.

When Adam returned to Caithness in 1219, he began to encounter problems from the inhabitants of his diocese. Bishop Adam had increased the episcopal "tax" imposed on the province's husbandmen, raising it from a span of butter from every twenty cows, to a span from every ten cows. On 11 September 1222, a group of husbandmen gathered at Halkirk to protest against the bishop's tax increase. After some initial discussions, the company grew angry and killed Serlo, Dean of Newbattle (near Dalkeith), the Bishop's friend and advisor. Adam attempted to offer terms, but the infuriated husbandmen forced the bishop to flee into his kitchen, and in the kitchen they burned him to death. Adam's body was interred in the church of Skinnet. In 1239, Adam's successor Gilbert de Moravia (otherwise known as Saint Gilbert of Dornoch) moved the body to the newly established Cathedral at Dornoch.


  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Ross-Harper, Ian, Notable Bishops and Ministers of Dornoch Cathedral, (Historylinks Museum, Dornoch)

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Abbot of Melrose
Succeeded by
Hugh de Clipstone
Preceded by
Bishop of Caithness
Succeeded by
Gilbert de Moravia