Saint Gilbert lived from about 1185 to 1 April 1245. Born Gilbert de Moravia and also known as Gilbert of Caithness, he became Bishop of Caithness and is principally remembered for founding Dornoch Cathedral. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Gilbert de Moravia was the son of Muiredach, who in turn was son of Alexander de Moravia. The names suggest a noble family with roots in Moray, and it is thought that Gilbert was a cousin of William de Moravia, who became 1st Earl of Sutherland in 1230. Having chosen to pursue a career in the church, Gilbert spent a number of years serving as the archdeacon of the Bishopric of Moray. He was appointed to the position of Bishop of Caithness in 1222 by King Alexander II of Scotland.
This was no easy role. Gilbert's predecessor, Adam of Melrose, had been killed at his residence in Halkirk by farmers angry at a doubling in the episcopal tax levied on agricultural production, and Adam's predecessor had himself had his eyes and tongue removed by Harald Maddadsson, Earl of Orkney and Mormaer of Caithness, ironically for resisting increases of taxation on the peasantry. Gilbert de Moravia owned estates in and around what is now Dornoch, and it was felt that it would be safer for him to move the seat of the diocese south. Gilbert therefore commissioned (and paid for) a Cathedral Church in Dornoch, as well as residences for ten canons. Gilbert himself was based at Skibo Castle, while spending some of his time in the more turbulent north at Scrabster Castle. His successors as bishop would establish a palace in Dornoch that has since evolved into Dornoch Castle.
Gilbert died at Scrabster Castle on 1 April 1245, and has since been said to have been "one of the noblest and wisest ecclesiastics the medieval church produced." He was buried at Dornoch, and his relics were venerated until the Reformation. He is said to have been the last Scottish saint to appear in the Calendar of Saints, although it is not known if he was ever formally canonized.