Elgin Cathedral

Elgin, United Kingdom

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 was unaffected by the Wars of Scottish Independence but again suffered extensive fire damage in 1390 following an attack by Robert III's brother Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, also known as the Wolf of Badenoch. In 1402 the cathedral precinct again suffered an incendiary attack by the followers of the Lord of the Isles.

The cathedral went through periods of enlargement and renovation following the fires of 1270 and 1390 that included the doubling in length of the choir, the provision of outer aisles to the northern and southern walls of both the nave and choir. Today, these walls are at full height in places and at foundation level in others yet the overall cruciform shape is still discernible.

A mostly intact octagonal chapter house dates from the major enlargement after the fire of 1270. The gable wall above the double door entrance that links the west towers is nearly complete and was rebuilt following the fire of 1390. It accommodates a large window opening that now only contains stub tracery work and fragments of a large rose window. Recessed and chest tombs in both transepts and in the south aisle of the choir contain effigies of bishops and knights, and large flat slabs in the now grass-covered floor of the cathedral mark the positions of early graves. The two towers of the west front are mostly complete and were part of the first phase of construction. Only the precentor's manse is substantially intact; two others have been incorporated into private buildings. A protective wall of massive proportions surrounded the cathedral precinct, but only a small section has survived.

The number of canons had increased to 25 by the time of the Scottish Reformation in 1560, when the cathedral was abandoned and its services transferred to Elgin's parish church of St Giles. After the removal of the lead waterproofing of the roof in 1567, the cathedral fell steadily into decay. In the winter of 1637, a storm brought down the roof covering the eastern limb. In the spring of 1711, the central steeple above the crossing collapsed taking the walls of the nave with it. Ownership was transferred from the Church to the Crown in 1689 but that made no difference to the building's continuing deterioration. Only in the early years of the 19th Century did the Crown begin the conservation process—the stabilisation of the structure proceeded through until the end of the 20th Century with the large scale improvements to the two western towers.

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Founded: 1224
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rachael Hamilton (2 years ago)
Amazing hidden gem! History and architecture are awe inspiring. Could easily spend more than just an hour or two soaking it all up. Looking forward to visiting again
Dirk Hogrefe (Nomjabir) (2 years ago)
Nice place, we have been there early. But with the sun we could see a lot of the Cathedral. Worth a visit but also take your time to see the surrounding.
High Miler (2 years ago)
Great explore. Would of been even better if bits were not closed off. Plenty of history and a nice little gift shop too.
Jezvin George (2 years ago)
If you are someone who loves history, this is for you. The history of this place is quite interesting and the ruins are wealth as it reminds us of a past that we can only picture. Once a cathedral that has seen multitude of transformations, it’s mere ruins now, yet majestic with what’s left.
Christian Chesley (2 years ago)
Great little stop on your Northeast Scotland tour. 10£ per person gets you in. Nice little gift shop at the entrance. You can explore pretty much anything you can see. Lots of great history with little plaques setting the scene.
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