Cathedral Church Of St Machar

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The Chanonry, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Cathedral Church Of St Machar Aberdeen Reviews

Dr_Seuss Dr_Seuss
216 reviews
St Machar's Cathedral Sep 12, 2012
Interesting church to visit, and a great deal of history. Easy to get to from the city centre,from the end of Union Street ( the main street in the city), a 20 min walk straight up up King Street, and cut through the university.

A site of Christian worship since 580 AD, when St Columba sent his mate Machar to establish a church, where a river looked like a bishop's staff as it flowed into the sea. There is a Celtic cross kept in the cathedral, dating back to then.

Also,William Wallace's left arm is supposed to be buried in the walls of the cathedral as, after he had been hung, drawn and quartered, this part of him ended up in Aberdeen to act as a warning to others.

The church becam a Cathedral in 1131, and had a bishop, but it was catholic then. After the reformation in Scotland, in 1560, a lot of the church property in the area was sold off, and the church was abandoned for a while, with in fighting between Episcopalians and Presbytarians.

The present building was built from about 1350, and it had a central tower and was originally in the shape of a cross. The tower,the bit beyond that and the transepts fell into ruin,after a storm in 1688, though was supposed to have been weakened years earlier by Cromwell's troops taking stone for building forts. The church was put into use again in 1690 as a Presbytarian church. this is why it looks unsual for a Protestant church , and why you have a cathedral with no bishop.

Ironically, talking to one of the elders there to greet guests, the only finacial support the church gets comes from Historic Scotland to look after the ruins. They receive nothing in funding for the upkeep of the rest of the building.

Entering St Machar's you have to go through what looks like a real traditional spooky graveyard, with large tombstones and slab graves.

The first thing that stikes you when you go into the church is the Heraldic Ceiling, made of oak. It was put in place when the church was Catholic, and has the coats of arms of the great and the good at the time, who no doubt chipped in for it, including The Holy Roman Emperor (Charles V), Pope Leo X, James V King Of Scotland and The King Of France Francis I, plus other lords and nobles ( they had what to me looked like chopping boards :D that you could wander round with that told you all the coats of arms). Again another strange feature for a Protestan church. The guy we were speaking to put it nicely, I thought, in that it was a political snapshot of Europe at the time.

He also told us it was restored (2007 I think)and that they timed it for when the university was closed, and the congregation moved to King's College Chapel for the summer, to allow the work to be done.

I also noted that there was a sort of double skin wall, around the main body of the church, and it looked like galleries, where the poor people could have gone.Not the case, it was simply the building style at the time, when churches were fortified, and to try and let more light in. Again from our church insider :D, they fitted reflectors a few years ago but they haven't really worked to improve the natural lighting.

A few wee bits and pieces to see around the curch, like the tombs of former bishops, regimental colours of the Gordon Highlanders and an interesting font.

However it was the intrigue of the history and the amount of bare stone and the way the light struck it that I found most impressive. Well worth the visit if you are in the area.
St Machar's Church Sign
Path Up To St Machar's
Cathedral Church Of St Machar
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
The heraldic ceiling is quite intriguing. No doubt, as you say, the great and good chipped in to have their coats displayed.
Posted on: Sep 18, 2012
vances says:
Isn't it obvious that it was the arm William Wallace 'left'???
Posted on: Sep 17, 2012
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