Religious sites in United Kingdom

St Giles' Cathedral

A parish church was established in Edinburgh as early as 854. This first church, a modest affair, was probably in use for several centuries before a new one was founded in the 1120s. The 12th-century church was part of an effort of the Scottish royal family, especially David I (1124-1153), to spread Catholic worship throughout the Scottish lowlands. This church was probably quite small, Norman (Romanesque) in style, like ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars traces its origin to the south-west parish of Edinburgh, founded in 1598. In the wake of the Scottish Reformation, the grounds of the abandoned Friary were repurposed as a cemetery, in which the current church was constructed between 1602 and 1620. In 1638, National Covenant was signed in the Kirk. The church was damaged during the Protectorate, when it was used as barracks by troops under Oliver Cromwell. In 1 ...
Founded: 1602 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

St Cuthbert's Church

The Parish Church of St Cuthbert was probably founded in the 7th century and it once covered an extensive parish around the burgh of Edinburgh. The church"s current building was designed by Hippolyte Blanc and completed in 1894. St Cuthbert"s is situated within a large churchyard that bounds Princes Street Gardens and Lothian Road. A church was probably founded on this site during or shortly after the life of C ...
Founded: 1894 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and is the oldest building in Glasgow. The history of the cathedral is linked with that of the city, and is allegedly located where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church. The tomb of the saint is in the lower crypt. Walter Scott"s novel Rob Roy gives an account of the kirk. Built before the Reformation from the late 12th century ...
Founded: 1136 | Location: Glasgow, United Kingdom

Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey origins date from the 12th century, based on a former Cluniac monastery. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, it became a Church of Scotland parish kirk. It is believed that Saint Mirin (or Saint Mirren) founded a community on this site in 7th century. Some time after his death a shrine to the Saint was established, becoming a popular site of pilgrimage and veneration. In 1163, Walter fitz Alan, ...
Founded: 1163 | Location: Paisley, United Kingdom

St Mary's Tower & Church

The oldest building in the Dundee is St Mary"s Tower, which dates from the late 15th century. This forms part of the City Churches, which consist of St Clement"s Church, dating to 1787–88 and built by Samuel Bell, Old St Paul"s and St David"s Church, built in 1841–42 by William Burn, and St Mary"s Church, rebuilt in 1843–44, also by Burn, following a fire.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dundee, United Kingdom

St Michael's Parish Church

St. Michael's Parish Church is one of the largest burgh churches in the Church of Scotland. King David I of Scotland granted a charter for the establishment of the church in 1138. The church was built on the site of an older church and was consecrated in 1242. Following a fire in 1424, most of the present building dates from the mid-15th century, with extensive restorations in the 19th century. Parts of the Church of St M ...
Founded: 1242 | Location: Linlithgow, United Kingdom

St Andrews Cathedral

The Cathedral of St Andrew was built in 1158 and became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland as the seat of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews. It fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th-century Scottish Reformation. It is currently a monument in the custody of Historic Environment Scotland. The ruins indicate that the building w ...
Founded: 1158 | Location: St Andrews, United Kingdom

St John's Kirk

St John"s Kirk is architecturally and historically one of the most significant buildings in Perth. The settlement of the original church dates back to the mid-12th century. During the middle of the 12th century, the church was allowed to fall into disrepair, when most of the revenues were used by David I to fund Dunfermline Abbey. The majority of the present church was constructed between 1440 and 1500. Though much ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Perth, United Kingdom

Holyrood Abbey Ruins

Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. The original abbey church of Holyrood was largely reconstructed between 1195 and 1230. The completed building consisted of a six-bay aisled choir, three-bay transepts with a central tower above, and an eight-bay aisled nave with twin towers at its west front. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reform ...
Founded: 1128 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Church of the Holy Rude

The Church of the Holy Rude is the medieval parish church of Stirling. The church was founded in 1129 during the reign of David I, but earliest part of the present church dates from the 15th century. Construction on the new nave was underway by 1414, and based on the evidence of carved heraldry the vault of the nave was completed between 1440 and 1480. Work on the chancel did not commence until 1507 and completed around 1 ...
Founded: 1414-1480 | Location: Stirling, United Kingdom

St. Anne's Cathedral

St Anne"s Cathedral is unusual in serving two separate dioceses (Connor and Down and Dromore).  The foundation stone being laid in 1899 by the Countess of Shaftesbury. The old parish church of St Anne by Francis Hiorne of 1776 had continued in use, up until 31 December 1903, while the new cathedral was constructed around it; the old church was then demolished. The Good Samaritan window, to be seen in the ...
Founded: 1899 | Location: Belfast, United Kingdom

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary"s Cathedral was built in the late 19th century in the West End of Edinburgh"s New Town. The cathedral is the see of the Bishop of Edinburgh. Designed in a Gothic style by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the cathedral is now protected as a category A listed building and part of the Old Town and New Town of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Reaching 90 metres, its spire makes the building the highest in the Edinbur ...
Founded: 1874 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey is one of the best examples of Scoto-Norman monastic architecture. The Abbey, built between 1128 and 1150 under David I, was a reconstruction of the Benedictine chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, founded by his mother, Queen Margaret. Despite much of the monastic buildings being destroyed by the troops of Edward I in 1303, there are substantial remains, with the lower stories of the dormitory and latr ...
Founded: 1128-1150 | Location: Dunfermline, United Kingdom

St. Magnus Cathedral

St. Magnus Cathedral was founded as a final resting place for the relics of St. Magnus. Work on its construction started in 1137. The Cathedral"s founder was Earl Rognvald who supervised the earliest stages of the building during the bishopric of William the Old of Orkney (1102-1168). Between 1154 and 1472, Orkney was ecclesiastically under the Norwegian archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim) and after that it became par ...
Founded: 1137 | Location: Kirkwall, United Kingdom

St Andrew's Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow. The Cathedral, which was designed in 1814 by James Gillespie Graham in the Neo Gothic style, lies on the north bank of the River Clyde in Clyde Street. From the Scottish Reformation of 1560 until the beginning of the Catholic Emancipation process in 1791, with the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 – whic ...
Founded: 1814 | Location: Glasgow, United Kingdom

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel was founded on a small hill above Roslin Glen in the mid-15th century. The chapel was founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. After the Scottish Reformation (1560), Roman Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end, although the Sinclair family continued to be Roman Catholics until the early 18th century. From that time the chapel was closed to ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Roslin, United Kingdom

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral is a historic ruin in Elgin, north-east Scotland. The cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was established in 1224 on land granted by King Alexander II. It replaced the cathedral at Spynie, 3 kilometres to the north. The new and bigger cathedral was staffed with 18 canons in 1226 and then increased to 23 by 1242. After a damaging fire in 1270, a rebuilding programme greatly enlarged the building. It w ...
Founded: 1224 | Location: Elgin, United Kingdom

Holy Trinity Church

The Category A listed Holy Trinity is the most historic church in St Andrews. The church was initially built on land, close to the south-east gable of the Cathedral, around 1144, and was dedicated in 1234 by Bishop David de Bernham. It then moved to a new site on the north side of South Street between 1410–1412 by bishop Warlock. Much of the architecture feature of the church was lost in the re-building by Robert Balfou ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: St Andrews, United Kingdom

St. German's Cathedral Ruins

The ruins located within the walls of Peel Castle are those of the former Cathedral of St German. Like the structures throughout the castle grounds, the cathedral's roof is completely missing. Robert Anderson examined the ruins to determine what repairs were required to restore the cathedral, and he reported to the island's Lieutenant Governor in 1877. However, none of the suggested repairs were carried out. There is ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Peel, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.