Nation in northwest Europe and a constituent country of the United Kingdom. It occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain, shares a land border to the south with England and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. Apart from the mainland, Scotland consists of over 790 islands. Religious connection of Scotland with Rome is found in the history of Saint Ninian, who was born in southwestern Scotland c.360, studied at Rome, was made bishop by Pope Siricius, returned to his own country, c.402, and founded at Candida Casa, now Whithorn, a monastery and the first stone church in Scotland. At his death c.432, Saint Palladius took up the work of evangelization. In the 6th century Irish missionaries came to Scotland and preached the faith in the western sections of the country. The earliest period of Scottish Church history was that of the monasteries, and the first and most notable figure was Saint Columba, apostle of the northern Picts. In 563 he settled in the monastery of Iona which held preeminence over all the monasteries of the Picts. Meanwhile Saint Kentigern was laboring among the British of the south. He founded the Church of Cumbria and was consecrated first Bishop of Glasgow. The first apostle in the east was Saint Cuthbert, who entered the monastery of Melrose in 650 and became bishop of Lindisfarne in 684. At the close of the monastic era and the disappearance of the Columban monks, there arose several communities of anchorite-clerics who, with the secular clergy devoted themselves to missionary work. The reign of Malcolm III and his queen, Saint Margaret, during which the Church of Scotland was brought into unity with the rest of Catholic Christendom, saw the restoration of the monastery of Iona, the building of numerous churches, and the spread of the faith into the islands north and west of Scotland. Malcolm’s son, Alexander, erected the Bees of Moray and Dunkeld, introduced regular religious orders, and founded monasteries of canons regular. His successor, David, brought Benedictine monks from France to Selkirk and Augustinian canons to Jedburgh, secured the restoration of the ancient see of Glasgow, erected five other bishoprics, and established several abbeys, monasteries, convents, and houses for the military orders. At this time also came the complete diocesan reorganization of the Church and the erection of cathedral chapters and rural deaneries, and the modeling of the Divine service on that of the English Church. Two Church councils were held, both presided over by cardinal legates from Rome; and in 1150 the first diocesan synod of Scotland convened at Saint Andrews. The Scottish Church was menaced by the claim of the English archbishop of York to jurisdiction over her and by the English king’s efforts to subject her to the Church of England. In 1188 Pope Clement III announced by Bull that the Scottish Church with its nine dioceses was immediately subject to the Holy See. A council of Scottish bishops met in 1225, the first without a legate from Rome, and elected a conservator to preside over the assembly with quasi-metropolitan authority.

The 13th century was a time of peace and progress for the Church, when many new religious foundations were made. Among the outstanding figures of the 14th century were the bishops Fraser, Lamberton, and David of Moray, the last the founder of the historic Scots College in Paris. The year 1342 marks the building of the first collegiate church in Scotland. Lollardism, which grew up during the rule of James I (of Scotland), was condemned in a special act of the Scottish Parliament, and all the graduates of the University of Saint Andrews were required to take an oath against it. Lutheranism appeared in Scotland about 1525, and in 1555 John Knox started his crusade against the ancient faith. Churches and monasteries were sacked, Catholics were persecuted, and in 1560 the Protestant Confession of Faith became the state religion. Three later statutes abolished papal jurisdiction in Scotland, repealed all former laws in favor of the Catholic Church, and made it a penal offense punishable by death, either to say or hear Mass. King James VI (I of England), although he promised conciliatory measures towards his Catholic subjects, personally led an at tack against the Catholic nobles of the north in 1594, which culminated in the extinction of Catholicism as a political force to be reckoned with in Scotland. However, so great a number held to their beliefs that at the end of the 16th century it was necessary to make provision for what was then a missionary country. The Jesuits labored valiantly; and one holy missionary, John Ogilvie, was put to death for his faith at Glasgow, in 1615. In 1653 Rome incorporated the scattered clergy of Scotland under William Ballantyne, while Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans, Vincentians, and Irish missionaries worked together to maintain the position of the Church. Under Charles II the Catholics enjoyed little more indulgence than they had had under Presbyterians, but with the accession of James II the penal laws were suspended, Catholic worship was restored, and the missionaries received government aid. After the Revolution of 1688 conditions again became intolerable for Catholics, and the legislative union of England and Scotland in 1707 made no change. The Emancipation act of 1829, which granted civil and political liberty to Catholics, was preceded and followed by bigotry and persecution, but it made for the extension and development of the Church in Scotland. The hierarchy was reestablished by Pope Leo XIII in 1878, and this act was amicably received throughout the country. Since that time, the number of Catholics, priests, churches, and other religious institutions has continued to grow. Catholics enjoy all legal rights and the only office from which they are debarred is that of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Established Church, a position which no Catholic would wish to occupy.

Ecclesiastically the country is governed by the archdioceses of

the dioceses of


  • Apostolic Exarchate of Great Britain, Faithful of Eastern Rite (Ukrainian)
  • Military Ordinariate of Great Britain

Place-names of Catholic interest in Scotland include

  • Abbey Saint Bathans, Berwick
  • Bishopbriggs, Glasgow
  • Bishopton, Renfrew
  • Holytown, Lanark
  • Holywood, Dutnfries
  • Laurencekirk, Kincardine
  • Maryburgh, Ross
  • Maryculter, Aberdeen
  • Marykirk. Kincardine
  • Marypark, Grantown-on-Spey
  • Marywell, Angus
  • Saint Abb’s, Berwick
  • Saint Andrew’s, Fife
  • Saint Ann’s, Dumfries
  • Saint Boswell’s, Roxburgh
  • Saint Catherine’s, Argyll
  • Saint Combs, Aberdeen
  • Saint Cyrus, Montrose
  • Saint Fergus, Aberdeen
  • Saint Fillans, Perth
  • Saint Katherine’s, Aberdeen
  • Saint Mary’s Holm, Kirkwall, Orkney
  • Saint Monance, Fife
  • Whitekirk, Prestonkirk, East Lothian
Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Scotland”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 November 2016. Web. 20 January 2021. <>