Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Gilbert, Bishop, A.D. 1245

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Saint Gilbert was the last Scotsman who was honoured as a saint before the Reformation. He belonged to the noble family of Moray, being son of William, Lord of Dufus. Having entered the ecclesiastical state he became in due time Archdeacon of Moray, and when the see of Caithness became vacant he was consecrated bishop of that diocese. During the twenty years he ruled the church of Caithness he edified all by his zeal and by the virtues of his private life.

The cathedral at that time was but a small, insignificant church at Dornoch, dedicated to Saint Finbar, an Irish saint of the sixth century who laboured as a missionary in Scotland. The poverty of the diocese and the unsettled state of the times had prevented any extension of this. Gilbert therefore resolved to provide at his own cost a more worthy edifice for the mother-church of the diocese. The church when completed was a beautiful Early English structure, with aisles, transepts, and central tower and spire. The holy bishop considered it a privilege to help with his own hands in the building work. He would himself superintend the making of glass for the windows in the glass works he had established at Sideray.

When the cathedral was finished, Saint Gilbert’s next care was to form a Chapter, as hitherto there had been no canons. In this important undertaking he followed the model of Lincoln Cathedral and established the rite of that church in the ceremonial of the services. The dignitaries and canons were ten in number, and there were also sufficient vicars choral, or minor ecclesiastics, to enable the sacred offices to be celebrated with becoming solemnity.

Saint Gilbert worked many miracles during life; among them is recorded the bestowal of speech on a dumb man by means of prayer and the sign of the cross. The saint was laid to rest under the central spire of his cathedral, and a century after his death the dedication, which had previously been to Saint Mary, had been changed to Saint Mary and Saint Gilbert.

The relics of the saint were greatly honoured in Catholic ages. No trace of Saint Gilbert’s resting-place remains now except a portion of a broken statue which probably formed part of it; like those of so many of our holy ones, his ashes are left unhonoured in the desecrated church wherein they repose. Saint Gilbert’s Fair was formerly held annually at Dornoch; it lasted for three days.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Gilbert, Bishop, A.D. 1245”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 March 2014. Web. 23 August 2017. <>