Cathedral of St Machar


In spite of its name, St Machar's is not a Cathedral; since 1690 it has been a parish church within the Church of Scotland.  It is a place of great antiquity. There has been a church on the site since about 580. A Cathedral was begun in the 1130s, but was destroyed by the army of Edward III of England in 1336. Most of the existing building was constructed between 1380 and 1520; it was once longer, but the central tower, crossing and transepts collapsed in 1688, leaving the nave, and turning a cruciform church into a basilica. This is the very first building to use dressed granite. The exterior is dominated by two massive fortified towers on the west front, separated by an elegant seven-lance window. The interior is remarkable: the squat round pillars and flat ceiling suggest an early Renaissance church, possibly the oldest in Britain. The inspiration probably came from Italy: the Scottish church was a special daughter of the papacy, and one of the bishop-builders worked in the Curia before being sent to Aberdeen.The oak ceiling, the church's most important feature, was erected in 1520. It is supported on all four sides by a deep wooden frieze. It is decorated with 48 carved and painted heraldic shields; both carving and painting are of very high quality.  The ceiling is of international importance. The southern rank of shields represents Scotland led by James V, King of Scots; the northern the monarchs of Europe led by the Emperor; and the middle rank the Church led by the Pope, Leo X. That the arms of a Pope can still be found above the communion table after 330 years of Presbyterianism is a matter of great celebration, given that the church was despoiled of much of its statuary in the century after the Reformation.

The grant will help the church to carry out urgent roof repairs.

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