St. Magnus Cathedral

Kirkwall, United Kingdom

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 part of the Scottish province of St. Andrews. The Cathedral was assigned to the inhabitants of Kirkwall by King James III of Scotland in a charter dated 1486. One of the most notable bishops was Bishop Robert Reid who held the see of Orkney between 1541 and 1558.

The Reformation brought ruin to many cathedrals but St. Magnus Cathedral seems to have emerged relatively unscathed, although the organ, treasures and rich vestments were removed and the wall decorations were covered in whitewash.

In 1845 the Government presumed the ownership of the Cathedral, expelling the then congregation and carrying out major restoration work to the fabric of the building. In 1851 the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall re-established ownership of the building and the choir and presbytery were fitted with new pews and galleries for the reinstated congregation.

The Cathedral slowly deteriorated until the early 20th century when The Thoms Bequest made further major restoration possible. Between 1913 and 1930, the main alteration to the exterior of the Cathedral was the erection of a tall steeple which replaced the low pyramidal roof of the bell tower. Internally, the screen separating the choir from the nave was removed, along with the pews and galleries. Stained glass windows replaced the formerly plain windows, much of the floor was tiled and the warm red sandstone was revealed by the removal of plaster and whitewash.

Today St. Magnus Cathedral is a popular tourist destination. The great age of much of its structure means it has smaller windows than those found in more modern churches. The tall narrow nave gives the illusion of much greater size than is actually the case. Uniquely in Britain, the Cathedral has a dungeon or holding pen built between the south wall of the choir and the south transept chapel. It is known as Marwick's Hole, but the source of this name and the time of its origin are unknown.

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Details

Founded: 1137
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Kevin Boak (2 years ago)
Beautiful place of worship, well-maintained and presented to visitors.
Paul Hawkins (2 years ago)
Magnificent church, great historical story, a must visit when your on Orkney
Jackie Wilkinson (2 years ago)
Great traditional style church dominating the centre of Kirkwall. Lovely atmosphere
Steve Woods (3 years ago)
Beautiful place. Highly recommend the tour. Excellent view of kirkwall from the bell tower.
Mathew Hewitt (3 years ago)
Nice Cathedral. Free Entry, Free close by parking in Kirkwall. Nice architecture both inside and out. Was lovely to see the Baptism font that has all the local parishes donated stones attached to it.
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