Bishop of Down

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The Bishop of Down was an episcopal title which took its name from the town of Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. The bishop's seat (Cathedra) was located on the site of the present cathedral church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the Church of Ireland.

The title is now united with other bishoprics. In the Church of Ireland it is held by the Bishop of Down and Dromore,[1] and in the Roman Catholic Church it is held by the Bishop of Down and Connor.[2]


The diocese of Down was one of the twenty-four dioceses established at the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 and comprised roughly the eastern half of County Down. For a brief period in the early 12th-century, Down was united with the see of Connor under Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair (Saint Malachy), who also became Archbishop of Armagh.[3]

On 29 July 1439, plans for a permanent union of the sees of Down and Connor were submitted to King Henry VI of England for his sanction. Exactly twelve months later, 29 July 1439, Pope Eugene IV issued a papal bull stating that Down and Connor were to be united on the death or resignation of either bishop.[3] On 29 May 1441, Archbishop Prene of Armagh sent a letter to Pope Eugene IV in which he writes about the crimes and excesses of Bishop John Sely of Down, one of which was that Sely was living openly with Lettice Thomas, a married woman, at Kilclief Castle.[4][5] Following receiving the letter, the pope deprived Bishop Sely of the see of Down at some date before November 1442, and thereby effecting the union of the two dioceses. John Fossade, who had been bishop of Connor since 1431, became the bishop of the united see of Down and Connor in late 1442. However, there was strong local opposition to the union, and Archbishop Prene's register shows that he also was for a time opposed to the union. There were three more bishops of Down were appointed before the two sees finally united.[3][6]

After the Reformation in Ireland, Down and Connor had parallel episcopal successions. In the Roman Catholic Church, Down remains united with Connor to the present today. But in the Church of Ireland, they united further with Dromore in 1842 to form the bishopric of Down, Connor and Dromore. They continued until 1945 when they were separated into the bishopric of Down and Dromore and the bishopric of Connor.[7]

List of bishops[edit]

Bishops of Down
From Until Incumbent Notes
unknown 1117 Máel Muire Styled "bishop of Dundalethglass" (the original name of Downpatrick); died in office.
unknown 1123 Óengus Ua Gormáin Died in office.
1124 1148 Saint Malachy Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair or Malachias I; became bishop of Down and Connor in 1124, and Archbishop of Armagh in 1132; he resigned Armagh and Connor in 1136, but retained Down until his death on 2 November 1148.
bef. 1152 1175 Máel Ísu mac in Chléirig Chuirr Malachias II; present at the Synod of Kells in March 1152; died in office.
1175 Gilla Domangairt Mac Cormaic Gelasius or Gilladomail McCormic; styled "Bishop of Ullagh".
1175 Amláin Died in office.
c. 1176 1202 Echmílid Echmílid mac Máel Martain or Malachias III; resigned before 1202; died 1204.
c. 1202 c. 1212 Radulfus OCist Formerly Abbot of Melrose 1194–1202; appointed bishop circa 1202; died in office.
c. 1213–24 1242 Thomas Became bishop before 1224, possibly as earlier as 1213; appears to have acted as a suffragan to the Bishop of Ely.
1251 1257 Randulphus Became bishop before May 1251; attended a synod at Bangor in 1251; died before November 1257.
1258 1265 Reginaldus Formerly Archdeacon of Down; elected bishop before April 1258; received possession of the temporalities and consecrated after October 1258; translated to Cloyne 13 April 1265.
1265 1277 Thomas Lydel Thomas Liddel; elected before April 1258, but was rejected by King Henry III of England; elected again 1265 and consecrated after 5 July 1265; acted as a suffragan bishop in the diocese of Lincoln 1270; died before February 1277.
1277 1305 Nicholas le Blund OSB Formerly Prior of Down; elected before 19 March and received possession of the temporalities after 29 March 1277; died before 28 March 1305.
1305 1314 Thomas Ketel Elected before 18 August and received possession of the temporalities after 18 August 1305; died circa 20 March 1314.
1314 1327 Thomas Bright OSB Formerly Prior of Down; elected after 20 March 1314; died in office.
1328 John of Baliconingham John of Ballyconingham; elected before 4 August 1328 and received possession of the temporalities on that date, however, the election was annulled by the pope, and was translated to Cork sometime before January 1329.
1329 1353 Ralph of Kilmessan Appointed 12 December 1328 and received possession of the temporalities 1 April 1329; died August 1353.
1353 1354 Gregory Provost of Killala; appointed 29 January 1353 and was consecrated at Avignon; annulled 31 May 1354 and restored to his provostship at Killala.
1353 1365 Richard Calf (I) Formerly Prior of Down; appointed 4 December; consecrated before 23 December 1353; received temporalities 6 March 1354; died 16 October 1365.
1365 1366 Robert of Aketon Elected 18 November 1365, but did not get possession of the see; resigned before February 1366; appointed to Kildare, 2 May 1366.
1367 1368 William White OSA Formerly Prior of Conall; appointed before December 1366; received temporalities 30 June 1367; died circa 10 August 1368.
1369 1386 Richard Calf (II) OSB Formerly Prior of Down; appointed 19 February; received temporalities 28 April 1369; died 16 May 1386.
1386 1394 John Ross OSB Formerly Prior of Down; appointed before 8 November 1386; received temporalities 14 March 1368; died before September 1394.
1394 1413 John Dongan Translated from Derry 16 September 1394; received temporalities 26 July 1395; resigned before 28 July 1413.
1413 1442 John Sely John Cely; formerly Prior of Down; appointed 28 July 1413; deprived before November 1442; died before 26 April 1445.
In 1442, the sees of Down and Connor were united by Pope Eugene IV, and John Fossade, who had been bishop of Connor since 1431, became bishop of the united see of Down and Connor. However, due to strong opposition three more bishops of Down were appointed.
1445 Ralph Alderle OSA Appointed 26 April 1445, but did not get possession of the see.
1447 1451 Thomas Pollard OCarth Appointed 21 June; consecrated 27 August 1447; died before June 1451.
1451 1453 Richard Wolsey OP Appointed 21 June 1451; acted as a suffragan bishop in the dioceses of Lichfield 1452, Worcester 1465–79, and Hereford 1479; resigned the see of Down before August 1453; died after 1479.
On 24 August 1453, Thomas Knight was appointed Bishop of Down and Connor, finally uniting the two sees.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The United Diocese of Down and Dromore". The United Diocese of Down and Dromore. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 
  2. ^ "The Diocese of Down and Connor". The Roman Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 334–336, 347–348. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  4. ^ Kilclief Castle. Irish Antiquities. Retrieved on 25 August 2009.
  5. ^ Kilclief Castle, County of Down. Library Ireland. Retrieved on 25 August 2009.
  6. ^ a b Cotton, Henry (1849). The Succession of the Prelates and Members of the Cathedral Bodies of Ireland. Fasti ecclesiae Hiberniae. Vol. 3, The Province of Ulster. Dublin: Hodges and Smith. pp. 197–201. 
  7. ^ Fryde, ibid., pp. 385 and 389.