The Dornoch Cathedral

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Sat, 2009-12-05

The Dornoch Cathedral shot to fame recently, when Madonna and Guy Ritchie, baptised their child there.

The Cathedral was originally started in 1224, but was not ready for its first service until 1239. In 1989 it celebrated 750 years.

The Cathedral is a 13th Century Parish Church set in the heart of the royal burgh of Dornoch seeking to serve the wider community in which it lies along with its sister churches. The parish extends out from Dornoch to Embo, along Loch Fleet, staying on the south side of the Loch as the road crosses the A9, up past Little Torboll to Loch Buidhe down via Sleastary to the sawmill at Ospisdale and then on down to the Dornoch Firth – following the Firth along on the northern side until it reaches Dornoch again.

Reverend Susan Brown came to Dornoch Cathedral in 1998 and has seen a full Church every Sunday. Services are on every Sunday at 11am in the Summer months and there is also a Songs of Praise at 8.30pm on Sunday evening.

Gilbert de Moravia planned the building. He became Bishop of Caithness in 1222. At that time the bishopric of Caithness was all of the land north of the Dornoch Firth. He was also responsible for the building of St Peters in Thurso.

The Cathedral is open to the public daily (from May until September) from daylight to sunset and you will be met by the ladies of the Church from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Mondays to Fridays.

The ladies will tell you about the history of the Church and help in any way they can. They are also available after the Songs of Praise on Sunday evenings.


The nave has four windows in each wall. A stone sarcophagus contains the bones of Sir Richard de Moravia brother of Bishop Gilbert. Around 1240 he was killed in battle during a Danish invasion. Six of the twenty-seven stained glass windows are to be found in the nave.


Between 1247 and 1733 the remains of many of the Earls of Sutherland were placed here. The caps from the original windows have survived although the shafts on which they rested have disappeared. The caps are all different and the workmanship is considered to have been of the highest quality. The windows in the Transept commemorate a range of people connected to the church or the area.

Chancel Windows

A set of stained glass windows on the north side of the chancel is dedicated to the memory of Andrew Carnegie who although born in Dunfermline and became rich in Pittsburg bought and lived at Skibo castle four miles from Dornoch. There is also a Carengie library in Dornoch – one of over 3000 he founded worldwide.


Madonna was married at Skibo Castle and later used the cathedral for the christening of her son.

The previous minister was the Very Rev Dr James Simpson, who was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1994. The current minister (since 1998) is the Rev Susan Brown, who achieved international fame for officiating at the wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie at nearby Skibo Castle in December 2000.

The Cathedral’s churchyard is adjoined by Dornoch Castle, the somewhat reconstructed remains of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Caithness. If you have any enquiries regarding the Cathedral or congregational life then you can contact the minister or the Session Clerk.

Image Gallery (click on the image for full view)


Dornoch Sutherland IV25 Scotland

Tel: +44 (8452) 255121

E-Mail: Click here


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