The Bishop of the Isles or Bishop of Sodor was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Sodor, one of Scotland's thirteen medieval bishoprics. The bishopric, encompasing both the Hebrides and Mann, probably traces its origins as an ecclesiastical unity to the careers of Olaf, King of the Isles, and Bishop Wimund. Previously, there had been numerous bishoprics, and recorded bishoprics include Kingarth, Iona, Skye and Mann. There were very likely numerous others.
Dunchad appears to have been Abbot of Iona during Dorbbéne's time in charge. The abbacy was either divided or Dorbbéne was bishop while Dunchad was abbot.
fl. mid. 9th century
Testified as bishop "i Suðreyjam" (in the Hebrides) in Norse sources, was perhaps merely a legendary figure.
According to the Annals of the Four Masters, s.a. 961.3 (=s.a. 963), he was Fothadh, mac Brain, scribhnidh & espucc Insi Alban; that is, "Fothad, son of Bran, scribe and bishop of the islands of Scotland". We know from other sources that he was probably bishop of Cennrígmonaid (i.e. St. Andrews), or at least, "High Bishop of Scotland" without a specific see.
The Annals of the Four Masters record his death in 966 (=s.a. M964.3) as "anchorite and Bishop of Iona".
Kingarth was a church on the Isle of Bute, supposedly founded by Saint Chattan and Saint Blane. Three abbots are known, but only two bishops. Sadly, little is known about the abbey, bishopric and individual clerics.
The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 660.1, records the death of this "and Daniél, bishop of Cenn Garad".
The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 689.1, record the death of this Iolán, "bishop of Cenn Garad".
Described as bishop of sancta ecclesia de Schith "holy church of Skye" (1109 x 1114). His bishopric may have been confined to Skye until 1134 x 1138, when he was definitely bishop of the Isles and Mann.
x 1148–x 1152
Presented by King Olaf of Mann to the Archbishop of York for consecration; no evidence positively that he took office.
1151 x 1152–1152 x 1154
Not known to have possessed his see. He was probably a candidate of the Archbishop of York who proved unacceptable to King Olaf.
1154–1154 x 1166
1154 x 1166–1170
A Norwegian; called, variously, Reinarb, Reinar, Nemar and Nemarr.
Laurence had been the archdeacon of Mann, and was elected to the bishopric after the death of Bishop Simon. He presented himself to the King of Norway and the Archbishop of Trondheim; the king would not agree to the election until he had visited personally; however, Laurence and his party drowned near Shetland on the voyage back to Mann.
An Englishman. Previously Abbot of Rushen, he was apparently elected to the see after the death of Bishop Richard. However, King Alexander III of Scotland ignored the election and installed instead Mark.
Deprived of bishopric in 1387 by Scottish-backed Avignon Pope Clement VII. Continued in English-controlled Mann until 1392, but from 1387 onwards the diocese has permanently split into two parts.
List of bishops of the Isles (excluding Mann)
The bishopric of the Isles became divided, primarily because the see became divided between the kings of England and Scotland. The English had taken over Mann, leaving the other islands to the north under Scottish overlordship.
Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500–1286, 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922).
Anderson, Alan Orr, Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500–1286, (London, 1908), republished, Marjorie Anderson (ed.) (Stamford, 1991)
Dowden, John (1912), Thomson, John Maitland, ed., The Bishops of Scotland : Being Notes on the Lives of All the Bishops, under Each of the Sees, Prior to the Reformation, Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons
Watt, D. E. R., "Bishops in the Isles before 1203: Bibliography and Biographical Lists", in The Innes Review, Volume 45, 1994, pp. 99–119
Watt, D. E. R.; Murray, A. L., eds. (2003), Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638, The Scottish Record Society, New Series, Volume 25 (Revised ed.), Edinburgh: The Scottish Record Society, ISBN0-902054-19-8, ISSN0143-9448