Ancient Diocese of the Faroe Islands

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Diocese of Faroe Islands

Dioecesis Phereyensis

Færøernes Stift
Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands.JPG
Ruins of Magnus Cathedral, seat of the bishop of the Faroe Islands.
CountryThen Norway, now Denmark
DenominationRoman Catholic
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
CathedralMagnus Cathedral

The former Diocese of the Faroe Islands existed from the 11th century to the Protestant Reformation. The Faroe Islands are now included in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Copenhagen.


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.

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[edit]

  1. 1047-1067—Bernhard Sakseren, missionary bishop
  2. Late 11th century—Ryngerus, missionary bishop
  3. c. 1100-1137—Gudmund
  4. 1138-?—Orm, who acquired Kirkjubøur
  5. ?-1157—Matthew I [or] Martin I
  6. 1158-1162—[vacant]
  7. 1162-1174—Roe, who taught Sverre Sigurdsson, king of Norway after 1184
  8. ?-1212—Sven
  9. 1213?-1214—Olaf
  10. 1215—[vacant]
  11. 1216-1237?—Serquirus [or] Sverker
  12. ?-1243—Bergsven
  13. c. 1245—Nicholas(?) [doubtful]
  14. 1246-1257—Peter
  15. 1258-1260/61—[vacant]
  16. 1261/62-1268—Gaute
  17. 1269-1308—Erlandr (Erland), who expanded church holdings throughout the islands
  18. 1309-1312—[vacant]
  19. 1313?-1316—Lodin of Borgund
  20. 1317-1319—[vacant]
  21. 1320-?—Signar
  22. ?—Gevard
  23. 1343-1348—Håvard
  24. 1349?—[vacant]
  25. 1350?-1359—Arne I
  26. 1359-1369—Arne II Svæla
  27. ?—Andrew [elected, but likely unconsecrated]
  28. ?—Arnold(?) [doubtful]
  29. 1381?—Richard
  30. 1385-?—William Northbrigg
  31. ?—Vigbold [or] Vigbald
  32. 1391—Philip Gudbrandsson of Nidaros [elected, but likely unconsecrated]
  33. 1392?—Halgier [likely unconsecrated]
  34. 1408-1430?—Jon I the German
  35. 1432-1434—Severinus, also bishop of Tranquilia
  36. 1434?—Jon II the Dominican
  37. 1434-?—Jon III the Chief
  38. 1441/42?-1451?—Hemming
  39. 1452?–1453?—[vacant]
  40. 1453-?—Jon IV
  41. ?—Matthew II [or] Martin II
  42. ?—Hilary(?) [questionable]
  43. ?-1532?—Chilianus
  44. 1532?–1538?—Ámundur Ólavsson (Amund), last Catholic bishop, ordered by Christian III to leave his mistress and his office
  45. 1540-1556—Jens Riber, Lutheran, last bishop

See also[edit]


  • 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.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Faroe Islands". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.