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Candida Casa was the name given to the church established by St Ninian in Whithorn, Galloway, southern Scotland, in the mid fifth century AD. The name derives from Latin: casa (meaning hut) and candidus/candida (meaning shining or glittering white), referring possibly to the stone used to construct it, or the whitewash used to paint it.
Whithorn precedes the Isle of Iona by 150 years as a birthplace of Scottish Christianity. In 397, St Ninian established the first Christian mission north of Hadrian's Wall here, while the Roman legions still occupied Britain. He erected a small stone church known as the "Candida Casa", or White House, which was Scotland's first Christian building, and the first Christian settlement north of Hadrian's Wall. The church site quickly grew to prominence in the early medieval period, becoming a cathedral and monastery, and remaining a centre for pilgrimage despite the unstable political situation in the region. At Whithorn, many monks were trained who later went into the missionary field to become famous apostles of Ireland and Alba, even as far north as the misty Orkney and Shetland Islands. Saint Éogan, founder of the monastery of Ardstraw, was an Irishman who lived in the sixth century AD and was said to have been taken by pirates to Britain. On obtaining his freedom, he went to study at Candida Casa.
Pottery and glass from the Mediterranean and Western France reached this early Christian monastery and many of the monks may have come from France itself, bringing new technology and crafts with them.
The bishopric of Whithorn was reestablished in 1128, and a new cathedral and adjoining priory were built on the site.
The site fell into disrepair through the Scottish Reformation and beyond, until in 1822 the construction of the current parish church restored the site as a focus of religious worship, as it had been for more than a thousand years from its foundation.
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