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

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User Reviews

Janet Wilson (8 months ago)
Very interesting. There is a museum inside which was unexpected. Also there was a man dressed as a historical figure who told you about the history.
Janet Wilson (8 months ago)
Very interesting. There is a museum inside which was unexpected. Also there was a man dressed as a historical figure who told you about the history.
Annette Munro (8 months ago)
Highly recommend visiting the cathederal, It's very atmospheric and well maintained and manned by well informed and very helpful friendly staff...
Annette Munro (8 months ago)
Highly recommend visiting the cathederal, It's very atmospheric and well maintained and manned by well informed and very helpful friendly staff...
Frustrated Traveller (8 months ago)
Sadly I didn’t have as much time to explore as I wanted, what I did see was beautiful and all accessible except the tall towers (due to social distancing) I didn’t get the names of the two gentlemen working today (1/11/2020) but both of them friendly, helpful and happy to chat.
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