INFORMATION SHEET No. 13
Lack of recorded evidence makes it virtually impossible to say exactly when Christianity first appeared in Easter Ross but the early Church was based on relatively few Celtic monastic communities as at Fearn (founded in the early 12th Century) and Rosemarkie. The Roman church later dominated and by the mid 15th Century religious life in the area was centred on the Cathedral of Ross at Fortrose in the Black Isle.
At the Reformation in 1560 the Latin mass and Papal supremacy were abolished in Scotland by Act of Parliament. But it was not until 1690 that the Church of Scotland was established on the Presbyterian system - that is being ruled not by Bishops or any individuals but by a series of courts, the General Assembly, synods, presbyteries and kirk sessions.
Between 1560 and 1690 various experiments were tried including, for a time, return to rule by Bishops. This latter produced revolt through the National Covenant (1638 & 1643). Covenanters were those who supported the views expressed in these Covenants and were strong in 1640's and again in the period 1660-90, at both periods becoming involved in politics as well as religion.
After the Reformation there were some who adhered to the Roman Catholic faith but had to worship in secret and were not accepted until 1828, when the law once again recognised their church. After 1690 there were also those who refused to accept the Presbyterian system and, supporting the rule of Bishops, were called Episcopalians; they were strong among the landed families of Ross-shire and after post 1745 persecution, they were recognised by Government in 1792.
Latterly, there were some major splits in the Church of Scotland. In 1843 the Disruption was caused by evangelicals leaving the Church to set up the Free Church of Scotland (especially strong in Easter Ross). The United Free Church was formed in 1900 when most Free Churches united with another splinter group, the United Presbyterian Church, and the majority of the United Free Church joined with the Church of Scotland in 1929. At each of these unions there were small groups who carried on their old allegiance.