Sea Bishop illustrated in Conrad Gesner's Historia Animalium (1558)

The Sea Bishop (a.k.a. Bishop Fish) is a mysterious species of oceanic humanoids which have been illustrated in European bestiaries and natural history almanacs from the mid-16th century onward.

Although anatomical details vary from source to source, this curious species is invariably illustrated as a humanoid sea-dweller, with scaly skin, an elongated high-domed head and facial features similar to a human being, usually including a beard or beard-like chin structure. Its hands are commonly illustrated with tentacle-like fingers while its feet seem to be entirely devoid of toes. Additionally, it seems to possess some kind of cloak-like fin or membrane covering its back, which is reminiscent of a cape or even a long robe.

In his 1554 book Libri de Piscibus Marinis, French naturalist Guillaume Rondelet claims that a specimen has been observed in the Baltic Sea by a physician named Gisbertus Germanus in 1531. Some sources claim that this creature was brought to the King of Poland (at the time this would have been King Sigismund I) who kept it in captivity until a group of bishops attempted to communicate with it and realized that the creature was peaceful and wished to be set free. Its request granted, the Sea Bishop gestured in gratitude and made the sign of the cross before returning to its native ocean. Conversely, a different variation of this story claims that the animal was captured in Germany and that it died in captivity as it refused to eat.

In his 1578 poem La Sepmaine; ou, Creation du monde, Guillaume du Bartas mentions the Sea Bishop as well as the Sea Monk as exemplifying the fact that everything that exists on land has a counterpart in the seas.


  • Assuming that this species is real and that they do practice the religion of Catholicism, it's likely that they may have learned it, either directly or indirectly, from human beings. The idea of a civilization of underwater humanoids developing a religion as a result of human activity has also been explored by H. G. Wells with his (fictional) Abyss Dwellers. Alternatively, it's also possible that the Sea Bishop was not actually Catholic, and was merely imitating a gesture it learned from human priests.