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Elgin Cathedral

Coordinates: 57°39′02″N 03°18′20″W / 57.65056°N 3.30556°W / 57.65056; -3.30556
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Elgin Cathedral
LocationElgin, Moray
Authorising papal bull10 April 1224 (1224-04-10)
Founded1224 (in present position)
Founder(s)Bishop Andreas de Moravia
DedicationThe Holy Trinity
Dedicated19 July 1224 (1224-07-19)
  • The main west portal before the Reformation
  • c. 1114/15
    Gregory, the first recorded Bishop of Moray, first appears in charters
  • 1207
    Bishop Brice de Douglas gets approval for the church at Spynie to the fixed location of the cathedral
  • 1224
    Bishop Andrew de Moravia gains approval for the move of the bishopric to Elgin
  • 1226
    Andrew issues new constitution greatly increasing the number of canons
  • 1270
    Destructive fire prompts significant reconstruction and enlargement; provision of new west doorway
  • 1362
    King David II's nomination, Alexander Bur, becomes Bishop
  • 1390
    Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan burns the cathedral and chanonry; central tower collapses; Bishop Bur appeals to the King for reparation for the acts of his brother
  • 1401
    Probably late in the year, Rothesay) arrested by Albany[1]
  • 1402
    Alexander, Lord of Lochaber attacks cathedral
  • c1485
    Bishop Andrew Stewart completes chapter house refurbishment
  • 1560
    Parliament abolishes Mass; Bishops now use St Giles Church in Elgin


  • St Giles Kirk
  • 1561
    'popish trappings’ removed from cathedral
  • 1567-8
    Roof lead and bells removed by order of parliament
  • 1573
    Patrick Hepburn, the last Catholic bishop of Moray died
  • 1637
    Roof covering the choir collapses
  • 1640
    The minister of St Giles church dismantled the Rood screen for firewood
  • 1707
    William Hay, the last bishop of Moray died; Union of the Parliaments
  • 1711
    Central tower collapsed destroying nave
  • 1823
    A Pictish cross-slab found near St Giles Church is moved to the Cathedral
  • 1824
    Crown funded the roofing of the chapter house supervised by Robert Reid
  • 1824–6
    John Shanks, a cobbler of Elgin, shifted '2853 cubic yards of rubbish' from cathedral grounds
  • 1834
    Extensive reinforcement and repairs to walls under supervision of Robert Reid
  • 1841
    John Shanks died and is buried in the cathedral cemetery
  • 1857
    The Pans Port gate refurbished and anachronistically ornamented
  • c. 1912
    The brewery on the east bank of the River Lossie and directly opposite the cathedral is removed
  • 1938
    The Pans Port and an existing section of the original precinct wall taken into public ownership
  • 1954
    The Precenter's Manse taken into public ownership
  • 1972–89
    chapter house window tracery replaced and glazed and re-roofed
  • 1998–2000
    Restoration of interior of north and south towers completed
Associated peopleKing Alexander II
Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan
Alexander Gordon, 1st Earl of Huntly
John Shanks
Functional statusRuin
Architectural typeCathedral
DioceseMoray (est. x1114–1127x1131)
Bishop(s)(Of significance)
Brice de Douglas
Andrew de Moravia
Alexander Bur
Patrick Hepburn
Designated6 February 1995
Reference no.SM90142

Elgin Cathedral, a historic ruin in Elgin, Moray, northeast Scotland, was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was established in 1224 on land granted by King Alexander II and stood outside the burgh of Elgin, close to the River Lossie. It replaced the cathedral at Spynie located 3 kilometres (2 mi) to the north, which was served by a small chapter of eight clerics. By 1226, the new and developing cathedral was staffed with 18 canons, a number that increased to 23 by 1242. A damaging fire in 1270 led to significant enlargement. It remained unscathed during the Wars of Scottish Independence but suffered extensive fire damage in 1390 when attacked by Robert III's brother Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, also known as the Wolf of Badenoch. In 1402, the cathedral precinct faced another incendiary attack by the Lord of the Isles followers.

As the cathedral grew, so did the number of clerics and craftsmen. Repairs following the fires of 1270 and 1390 resulted in the choir's doubling in length and the addition of outer aisles to both the nave and choir. While some parts of walls retain their full height, others are at foundation level, 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 near intact gable wall above the double door entrance linking the west towers was rebuilt after the fire of 1390. It contains fragments of a large rose window with remnants of tracery work. The transepts and the south aisle of the choir contain recessed and chest tombs with effigies of bishops and knights. The now grass-covered floor bears large flat slabs marking early graves. The residences of the dignitaries, canons and chaplains within the chanonry were also destroyed during the fires of 1270, 1390 and 1402, forming part of the overall reconstruction process. Only the precentor's manse remains substantially intact, while two others have been incorporated into private buildings. Both west front towers, part of the initial construction, are mostly complete. A massive protective wall surrounded the cathedral precinct, but only two small sections have survived. Of the wall's four access gates, only the Pans Port remains.

By the time of the Scottish Reformation in 1560, the number of canons had increased to 25. After the Reformation the cathedral was abandoned, and its services transferred to Elgin's parish church of St Giles. The removal of the roof's lead waterproofing in 1567 marked the beginning of the cathedral's steady decay. Although still largely intact in 1615, a winter 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 shifted from the Church to the Crown in 1689, but made no difference to the building's continued deterioration. Conservation efforts began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the 20th century, with significant improvements to the two western towers.

Early church in Moray[edit]

The first cathedrals of Moray

The Diocese of Moray was a regional bishopric, unlike the pre-eminent see of the Scottish church, St Andrews, which had evolved from a more ancient monastic Celtic church and administered scattered localities.[2] It is uncertain whether there were bishops of Moray before c. 1120,[3] but the first known prelate—possibly later translated to Dunkeld—was Gregory (or Giric, in Gaelic) and was probably bishop in name only.[4] Gregory was a signatory to the foundation charter of Scone Priory, issued by Alexander I (Alaxandair mac Maíl Choluim) between December 1123 and April 1124,[5] and again in a charter defining the legal rights of the same monastery.[6] He is recorded for the last time when he witnessed a charter granted by David I to Dunfermline Abbey in c. 1128.[7] These are the only known details of Gregory with no basis for later assertions that he was a promoted monk in a 'Pictish Church'.[8]

After the suppression of Óengus of Moray's rebellion in 1130, King David must have regarded the continued existence of a bishopric in Moray as essential to the stability of the province.[9][10] However, the next bishop, William (1152–62) was an absentee titular bishop and King David's chaplain. Having been David's aide since 1136, he likely did little to improve the stability of the see by the time he died in 1162.[11]

Felix was the next bishop and is thought to have been prelate from 1166 to 1171, although no accurate dates are certain. Little is known about his tenure, with only one instance of him appearing as a witness in a charter of William the Lion at his court held in Elgin.[12]

Following Felix's death, Simon de Toeni, King William's kinsman and a former abbot of Coggeshall in Essex, became the next bishop. Bishop Simon was the first of the early bishops to adopt a hands-on approach to his diocese and was said to be buried in Birnie Kirk, near Elgin, after his death on 17 September 1184, although this claim first emerged in the 18th century.[13]

Simon's successor was Richard of Lincoln, once again a royal clerk, and one who struggled to build up the revenues of the bishopric during and after the insurgence of Domnall mac Uilleim (Donald MacWilliam).[13] Richard is regarded as the first significant resident bishop of the see.[4]

During this early period, these bishops had no settled location for their cathedral, and sited it successively at the churches of Birnie, Kinneddar and Spynie.[14] Pope Innocent III issued an apostolic bull on 7 April 1206 that allowed bishop Brice de Douglas to fix his cathedral church at Spynie. The inauguration was held between spring 1207, and summer 1208.[15] A chapter of five dignitaries and three ordinary canons was authorised and based its constitution on that of Lincoln Cathedral.[16] Elgin emerged as the lay centre of the province under David I, who likely established the first castle in the town.[10][17] It may have been this castle, with its promise of better security, that prompted Brice to petition the Pope to move the seat from Spynie to Elgin before July 1216 .[18]

Cathedral church at Elgin[edit]

Despite Brice's earlier appeal, it was not until Andrew de Moravia's episcopate that Pope Honorius III issued his bull on 10 April 1224 authorising his legates Gilbert de Moravia, Bishop of Caithness; Robert, Abbot of Kinloss; and Henry, Dean of Ross to examine the suitability of transferring the cathedra to Elgin.[14][18] The Bishop of Caithness and the Dean of Ross performed the translation ceremony on 19 July 1224.[14] On 5 July, Alexander II (Alaxandair mac Uilliam) agreed to the transference in a writ referring to his previous land grant for this purpose. The land grant predated the Papal mandate and could indicate that work on a new church was already underway before Brice's death, but this is thought unlikely and that it was Bishop Andrew who commenced the building works on an unoccupied location.[19][20]

19th-century depiction of the burning of Elgin Cathedral

Construction of the cathedral was completed after 1242. Chronicler John of Fordun recorded (without explanation) that in 1270 the cathedral church and the canons' houses had been destroyed by fire. The cathedral was rebuilt in a larger and grander style, forming the greater part of the structure that stands today.[21] This work is believed to have been completed by the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296. Although Edward I of England took his army to Elgin in 1296 and again in 1303, the cathedral remained untouched, as it was by his grandson Edward III during his assault on Moray in 1336.[10] Soon after his election to the see in 1362–63, Bishop Alexander Bur requested funds from Pope Urban V to repair the cathedral, citing neglect and hostile attacks.[10] In August 1370 Bur began protection payments to Alexander Stewart, Lord of Badenoch, also known as the Wolf of Badenoch, who became Earl of Buchan in 1380, and who was the son of the future King Robert II.[22] Numerous disputes between Bur and Buchan led to Buchan's excommunication in February 1390. The bishop then turned for protection to Thomas Dunbar, the son of the Earl of Moray.[23][24] In response, and possibly through frustration of the reappointment of his brother Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife as guardian of Scotland, Buchan descended from his island castle on Lochindorb and burned the town of Forres in May and Elgin, including the cathedral and its manses, in June.[25][26] It is believed that he also burned Pluscarden Priory at that time, which was under the bishop's protection.[27] Bur sought reparation from Robert III for his brother's actions in a letter stating:[10]

my church was the particular ornament of the fatherland, the glory of the kingdom, the joy of strangers and incoming guests, the object of praise and exaltation in other kingdoms because of its decoration, by which it is believed that God was properly worshipped; not to mention its high bell towers, its venerable furnishings and uncountable jewels.

Robert III granted Bur an annuity of £20 for his lifetime, and the Pope provided income from the Scottish Church over the following decade.[25] In 1400, Bur complained to the Abbot of Arbroath about prebendary churches in the Moray diocese not paying their dues for the cathedral restoration.[28] In the same year Bur wrote to the rector of Aberchirder church, telling him that he now owed three years' arrears of the subsidy that had been imposed on non-prebendary churches in 1397.[29] Once again, on 3 July 1402, the burgh and cathedral precinct were attacked, this time by Alexander of Lochaber, brother of Domhnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles, sparing the cathedral but burning the manses. For this, Lochaber and his captains were excommunicated, prompting Lochaber's return in September to make reparations and gain absolution.[30]

In 1408, the money saved during an ecclesiastic vacancy was diverted to the rebuilding process, and in 1413 a grant from the customs of Inverness was provided.[31] Increasingly, the appropriation of the parish church revenues led to many churches becoming dilapidated and unable to attract educated priests. By the later Middle Ages, the standard of pastoral care outside the main burghs had significantly declined.[32]

Bishop John Innes (1407–14) made significant contributions to the cathedral's rebuilding efforts, as evidenced by the inscription on his tomb praising his work. Upon his death, the chapter met secretly—"in quadam camera secreta in campanili ecclesie Moraviensis" ("in the same secret chamber in the bell tower of Moray church")—and agreed that if one of its members was elected bishop, they would provide one-third of the bishopric income annually until the reconstruction was completed.[33] The major alterations to the west front were completed before 1435 and bear the coat of arms of Bishop Columba de Dunbar (1422–35). The north and south aisles of the choir were likely completed before 1460, with the south aisle containing the tomb of John de Winchester (1435–60).[34] The final significant feature to be rebuilt was the chapter house between 1482 and 1501, which displays the arms of Bishop Andrew Stewart.[35]

Diocesan organisation[edit]

The chapter was the sum total of dignitaries and canons and had the primary role of aiding the bishop in governing the diocese.[37] As Moray adopted the constitution of Lincoln diocese, the bishop's involvement in the chapter was restricted to being an ordinary canon, while the dean took on the leadership role.[37][38] This arrangement was also true for the bishops of Aberdeen, Brechin, Caithness, Orkney and Ross.[39] Every morning, the canons met in the chapter house to listen to a reading from St Benedict's rulebook before the day's business was discussed.[40] Bishop Brice presided over a small chapter comprising eight clerics, including the dean, precentor, treasurer, chancellor, archdeacon, and three canons.[14] His successor, Bishop Andrew de Moravia expanded the chapter significantly by appointing two additional senior positions (succentor and subdean) and 16 more canons with prebends.[41] By the time Andrew died, there were 23 prebendary canons, and two more were created before the Reformation.[41] Churches that were either located in ecclesiastic lands or granted to the diocese by landowners were subject to assignment to canons as prebends.[42] The de Moravia family, to which Bishop Andrew belonged, contributed greatly to these endowments.[43]

Deans of Christianity oversaw the priests within the deaneries and carried out the bishop's directives.[37] The Moray diocese was divided into four deaneries—Elgin, Inverness, Strathspey and Strathbogie. The parish churches within these deaneries provided the income not only for the cathedral and chapter but also for other religious houses within and outside the diocese.[41][44] Many churches were allocated to support designated canons and a smaller number were held in common. The bishop received mensal and prebendary income from the parish churches in his separate capacities as prelate and canon.[45]

The government of the diocese affecting both clergy and laity was vested entirely in the bishop, who appointed officers to the ecclesiastical, criminal and civil courts. The bishop, assisted by his chapter, produced the church laws and regulations for the bishopric and these were enforced at occasional diocesan synods by the bishop or, in his absence, by the dean.[46] Appointed officials adjudicated at consistory courts looking at matters affecting tithes, marriages, divorces, widows, orphans, wills and other related legal matters. In Moray, these courts were held in Elgin and Inverness.[46] By 1452 the Bishop of Moray held all his lands in one regality and had Courts of Regality presided over by Bailiffs and Deputies to ensure the payment of revenues from his estates.[46]

Cathedral offices[edit]

Large cathedrals such as Elgin had many chapel altars requiring canons, assisted by many chaplains and vicars, to conduct daily services.[14] Bishop Andrew allowed for the canons to be aided by seventeen vicars consisting of seven priests, five deacons and five sub-deacons. Later the number of vicars was increased to twenty-five.[31] In 1350, the stipends of the vicars at Elgin were not sufficient for their livelihoods, so Bishop John of Pilmuir provided them with the income from two churches and the patronage of another from Thomas Randolph, second Earl of Moray.[48] By 1489, the stipends varied among the vicars, with one receiving 12 marks, six receiving 10 marks, one receiving eight marks, three receiving seven marks, and six receiving five marks. Each vicar was directly employed by a canon, who was obligated to provide four months' notice in the event of termination of his service.[[49] The vicars were of two kinds: the vicars-choral who primarily worked in the choir for the main services, and the chantry chaplains who conducted services at individual foundation altars though there was some overlap in their duties.[50] While the chapter followed the constitution of Lincoln, the form of divine service replicated that of Salisbury Cathedral.[51]

Records indicate that disciplinary measures, including fines and even corporal punishment, were imposed on Elgin's vicars-choral for shortcomings in the performance of services. Such punishments were administered in the chapter house by the sub-dean and witnessed by the chapter.[52] King Alexander II founded a chaplaincy for the soul of King Duncan I who died in battle with Macbeth near Elgin. The chapel most frequently mentioned in records was St Thomas the Martyr, located in the north transept and supported by five chaplains.[53] Other chaplaincies documented are those of the Holy Rood, St Catherine, St Duthac, St Lawrence, St Mary Magdalene, St Mary the Virgin and St Michael.[54] By the time of Bishop Bur's episcopate (1362–1397), the cathedral had 15 canons (excluding dignitaries), 22 vicars-choral and a similar number of chaplains.[55]

Despite these numbers, not all clergy were regularly present in Elgin Cathedral. Absences were a common occurrence in all cathedrals during a period when ambitious clerics would accept positions in other cathedrals.[31] Time spent away from the chanonry was not without permission, as some canons were appointed to be always present while others were allowed to attend on a part-time basis.[56] The dean of Elgin was permanently in attendance; the precentor, chancellor, and treasurer were available for half the year. The non-permanent canons had to attend continuously for three months.[56] However, in 1240, the chapter decided to penalise canons who persistently absented themselves, breaching the terms of their attendance, by deducting one-seventh of their income. In the Diocese of Aberdeen, and likely in other bishoprics as well, when important decisions needed to be made by the chapter, an absentee canon had to appoint a procurator to act on their behalf. This task usually fell to one of the dignitaries who had a higher probability of being present.[[57] In 1488, at Elgin, many canons failed to adhere to the terms of their approved leave of absence, resulting in each of them receiving a formal warning and summons. Despite this, ten canons refused to attend, leading to a deduction of one-seventh of their prebendary income.[58]

Much of the workload fell on the vicars and a smaller number of permanent canons being responsible for celebrating high mass, delivering sermons, and organising feast day processions. Seven services were held daily, mostly for the clergy and took place behind the rood screen, separating the high altar and choir from lay worshipers. Only cathedrals, collegiate churches and large burgh churches were resourced to perform the more elaborate services while services in the humbler parish churches were more basic.[59]

The bishops were careful to uphold high standards within the cathedral ensuring that a significant number of graduate clerics who, as choir vicars, could act as proxies for absentee canons, alongside an unknown number of resident chaplains.[60] In addition to those in holy orders, clerks and lawyers were needed to record and execute the requirements of the chapter. Of necessity, there were needs for artisans and craftsmen such as masons, carpenters, and glaziers, all engaged in maintaining the fabric of the buildings with housekeepers, cooks, land workers and gardeners needed to sustain the precinct population. At the bishop's residence at Spynie, the household numbers would also have been significant with officials handling records of the bishop's estate, and servants working in the service buildings such as the kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, granary and stables.[61][62]

Chanonry and burgh[edit]

The College of the Chanonry of Elgin

Map interpretation[edit]

The description of the relative positions of the chanonry manses given by the late 19th, and early 20th century antiquarian, the Rev. Stephen Ree has been reproduced in David Firth's article for The Innes Review and forms the basis for this map.[63] It is constructed from a 19th century Ordnance Survey (OS) town map of Elgin as its base layer and preserves the road layout which has changed little since medieval times.[64] Extraneous detail has been removed but in all other respects, it retains standard mapping proportions and accuracy. The college boundary walls and Ree's data are applied.

Although modified over time, three manses still exist—those of Inverkeithny, the Precentor, and the Archdeacon (positions 4, 9 and 13 respectively). However, two further manses, Duffus and Unthank (positions 18 and 19) can be accurately located by juxtaposing the pre-Reformation and post-Reformation chanonry layout. To do this, the much later King Street (established in 1830), is shown as a transparent overlay to preserve detail.[65] King Street divided those manses from each other leaving them on opposite corners of King Street where it joined North College Street (shown on the map as Derne Road) and were not set back into their respective gardens, but formed part of their respective property boundaries.[66] [note 1] These five manses provide precise reference points that assist in placing the others. While the exact positioning, alignment and other characteristics of the remaining manses, along with their relative boundaries are speculative, they do correlate with Stephen Ree's description. Similarly, aside from the two existing sections, the precise positioning of the chanonry wall is unclear, however, a notable indicator of the wall's position was a six-foot thick segment integrated into a house on Collie Street.[72][73]

The College of Elgin and associated locations[edit]

Duffus Manse
Unthank Manse

The chanonry, referred to in the cathedral's records as the college of the chanonry (collegio canonicatus), or simply as the college (collegium), comprised the cathedral and the residences of canons, vicars, and chaplains grouped around it.[74] This precinct was surrounded by a substantial wall, measuring over 3.5 metres (11 ft) in height, approximately 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) in thickness, and said to have measured about 820 meters (2,690 ft) in length.[75] The wall had four gatehouses: the west gate that allowed travel to and from the burgh, the south gate facing the lands of the hospital of Maison Dieu and joining with the King's Highway, the extant east gate, or Panns Port, accessing the meadowland called Le Pannis—this gate illustrates the portcullis defences of the gatehouses (Fig. 1)—and the north gate providing a more convenient route towards the bishop's mill and his Spynie Palace.

Although manses were normally located within the precinct walls this was not always the case. Bishop John Pilmuir (1326-1362), on 14 December 1360, gifted a portion of land that he had secured from a secular clerk specifically for the building of four manses for chaplains. The land, feued from the Brothers of St Lazarus, was situated outside the west wall, on the road to the burgh of Elgin and between two lanes—one of which may have been the proto-Lazarus Wynd (position 26). With his death approaching, Pilmuir's conditions were that the chaplains should pray for the redemption of his soul and those of his parents.[76] Again, but by whose authority is unknown, the manse of Rhynie adjacent to the manses of five or more chaplains stood outside of the west wall but to the north (positions 1 and 2).[77][78]

Bishop Andrew Stewart (1482-1501), the youngest son of James Stewart of Lorne, and Joan Beaufort, the widow of James I of Scotland, was a significant figure during the reign of his nephew, James III.[79] Following the death of James in 1488, Bishop Andrew found himself out of favour at James IV's court allowing him to spend more time in his diocese.[80] In May 1489 Andrew called a general convocation of his canons to make long overdue changes to the college and its environs. Midst his slew of legislation was authorising essential repairs to two of the gatehouses, the Panns Port and the west gate to the burgh. Another major improvement involved inserting a new gateway (the North Gate) into the precinct wall beside the manse of Botarie (position 3).[81] Andrew also instructed thirteen prebendaries, which included the archdeacon and the succentor, to immediately "erect, construct, build, and duly repair their manses, and the enclosures of their gardens within the college of Moray".[82][83] [note 2]

The manse of Duffus (in its earlier wooden form) had hosted two kings. The first was Edward I of England on 10 and 11 September 1303 after the castle became unusable and then to the Scottish king James II in 1455.[84] As already stated, the manse of the precentor, mistakenly called the Bishop's House,[85] is partly ruined and is dated 1557 (Fig. 2). Vestiges of the prebendary of Inverkeithny's manse and the Archdeacon's manse (Fig. 3) are now part of private buildings.[86]

There were two friaries in the burgh. The Dominican Black Friars friary was founded in the western part of the town below the castle, around 1233. The friary of the Franciscan (Friars Minor Conventual) Grey Friars was later founded in the eastern part of the burgh sometime before 1281.[87] It is thought that this foundation didn't last long but was followed between 1479 and 1513 by a house of Observantine Grey Friars. The building was transferred into the ownership of the burgh around 1559 and later became the Court of Justice in 1563.[88] In 1489, the chapter founded a school that served not only as a song school for the cathedral but also to provide an education in music and reading for some children of Elgin.[89]

The hospital of Maison Dieu, dedicated to St Mary, was situated near the cathedral precinct and was established by Bishop Andrew de Moravia before 1237 for the aid of the poor.[90] It suffered fire damage in 1390 and again in 1445. Initially, the cathedral clerks received it as a benefice but gradually fell into disrepair due to a lack of support. Bishop James Hepburn granted it to the Blackfriars of Elgin on 17 November 1520, possibly to try and ensure its survival.[91] After the Reformation, the Crown took ownership of the property, and in 1595, James VI granted it to the burgh for educational and charitable purposes.[90] In 1624, it was replaced by an almshouse but in 1750 it was substantially damaged during a storm and lay in ruins until its demolition during a 19th century redevelopment of the area.[92][93]


The almshouse date stone

In August 1560, parliament gathered in Edinburgh and enacted legislation declaring the Scottish church to be Protestant, removing papal authority, and making the Catholic mass illegal.[94] Consequently, cathedral buildings now survived only if they were used as parish churches and as Elgin had been fully served by the Kirk of St Giles, its cathedral was abandoned.[21] On 14 February 1567, an act of parliament authorised Regent Lord James Stewart's Privy Council to order the removal of the lead from the roofs of both Elgin and Aberdeen cathedrals, to be sold to support the army, but the overladen ship commissioned to take the cargo to Holland capsized and sank in Aberdeen harbour.[95] Regent Moray and Patrick Hepburn, Bishop of Moray ordered repairs to the roof in July 1569, appointing Hew Craigy, Parson of Inverkeithing, as master of the work and was to collect contributions from the canons of the diocese—this clearly didn't happen.[96]

In 1615, John Taylor, known as the 'Water Poet,' described Elgin Cathedral as a "fair and beautiful church with three steeples." However, he noted that the roofs, windows, and many marble monuments and tombs were broken and defaced.[97]

Decay began and the roof of the eastern limb collapsed during a storm on 4 December 1637.[98] In 1640 the General Assembly ordered Gilbert Ross, the minister of St Giles kirk, to remove the rood screen partitioning the choir and presbytery from the nave. The screen was chopped up for firewood by Ross and the Lairds of Innes and Brodie.[99][100] It is believed that the destruction of the great west window was caused by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers sometime between 1650 and 1660.[100]

At some point, the cathedral grounds became the burial ground for Elgin. In 1685, the town council repaired the boundary wall but specifically ordered that stones from the cathedral not be used.[101] Despite the building's increasing instability, the chapter house continued to be used for meetings of the Incorporated Trades from 1671 to 1676 and then again from 1701 to around 1731.[102] No attempt was made to stabilise the structure and on Easter Sunday 1711, the central tower collapsed demolishing the nave. Subsequently, the cathedral's stonework was quarried for local projects.[21] Many artists visited Elgin to sketch the ruins, and it is from their work that the slow but continuing ruination can be observed.[103] By the closing years of the 18th century, travellers to Elgin began to visit the ruin, and pamphlets giving the history of the cathedral were prepared for those early tourists. In 1773 Samuel Johnson recorded, "a paper was put into our hands, which deduced from sufficient authorities the history of this venerable ruin."[104]

John Shanks

Since the abolition of bishops within the Scottish Church in 1689, ownership of the abandoned cathedral fell to the crown, but no attempts were taken to halt the building's decline. Acknowledging the necessity to stabilise the structure, the Elgin Town Council initiated the reconstruction of the perimeter wall in 1809 and cleared debris from the surrounding area in about 1815.[105] The Lord Provost of Elgin petitioned the King's Remembrancer for assistance to build a new roof for the chapter house and in 1824, £121 was provided to the architect Robert Reid for its construction. Reid was significant in the development of a conservation policy for historical buildings in Scotland and was to become the first Head of the Scottish Office of Works (SOW) in 1827. It was probably during his tenure at the SOW that the supporting buttresses to the choir and transept walls were built.[103]

In 1824, John Shanks, an Elgin shoemaker and an important figure in the conservation of the cathedral started his work. Sponsored by local gentleman Isaac Forsyth, Shanks cleared the grounds of centuries of rubbish dumping and rubble.[106] Shanks was officially appointed the site's Keeper and Watchman in 1826. Although his work was highly valued at the time and brought the cathedral back into public focus, his unscientific clearance methods may have resulted in much valuable evidence of the cathedral's history being lost.[103] He died on 14 April 1841, aged 82. A fortnight later, the Inverness Courier published a commemorative piece on Shanks, calling him the "beadle or cicerone of Elgin Cathedral", and writing:[107]

His unwearied enthusiasm in clearing away the rubbish which encumbered the area of the Cathedral and obscured its architectural beauties, may be gathered from the fact that he removed, with his pick-axe and shovel, 2866 barrowfuls of earth, besides disclosing a flight of steps that led to the grand gateway of the edifice. Tombs and figures, which had long lain hid in obscurity, were unearthed and every monumental fragment of saints and holy men was carefully preserved, and placed in some appropriate situation ... So faithfully did he discharge his duty as keeper of the ruins, that little now remains but to preserve what he accomplished.

Some minor works took place during the remainder of the 19th century and continued into the early 20th century. During the 1930s further maintenance work followed including the addition of a protective roof for the vaulted ceiling of the south choir aisle. From 1960 onwards the crumbling sandstone blocks were replaced and new windows were fitted in the chapter house, which was re-roofed to preserve its vaulted ceiling. From 1988 to 2000, significant renovations were carried out on the two western towers, including the addition of a viewing platform at the top of the north tower.

Diocesan possessions[edit]

As well as being the ecclesiastical head of the diocese, the bishops of Moray also possessed significant secular powers as prominent feudal lords. Their landed estates were extensive in significant areas of the Highlands and along the southern reaches of the Moray Firth. The bishops, representing religious and secular authority, played an important role in solidifying royal governance and stability in a historically volatile region. The importance of this relationship was recognised on 8 November 1451 when James II provided Bishop John Winchester with the Barony of Spynie enabling the consolidation of the disparate church lands and other properties into a single entity. On 15 August 1452, the king elevated the barony into a regality. This provided the bishop with wide-ranging powers including the convening of courts of law capable of adjudicating crimes that had previously fallen solely under the jurisdiction of the king's legal officer, the Sheriff. While the 1390 fire destroyed many charters that likely contained significant details regarding the attainment of land grants from royalty and the aristocracy, the surviving documents offer valuable insights into this process. However, the Barony of Spynie charter of 1451 named and defined much, but not all, of the diocesan lands.[108]

Some of the unspecified lands only became apparent during their transference into tenancies or, in some cases, litigation against transgressors. Additional records provide information regarding diocesan lands held by notable leaseholders obliged to pay the bishop homage. These actions typically occurred following events such as the appointment of a new bishop or the emergence of a new heir to relevant lands. Although these occasions were largely symbolic as the lands had normally been granted in perpetuity, they did demonstrate the lengths the bishops went to retain their privileges as secular overlords. The records also provide details of the lands that once were held exclusively by the church but had then been transformed into lease holdings. Land transfer had mainly arisen in the turbulent period from the mid-14th to the early 15th centuries. But even during this time, the bishops strongly defended their rights when secular lords tried encroaching on church lands.[109]

The bishops retained properties that were important to their needs and those of their households. These included elevated areas immediately north of Elgin, considered part of the bishops' demesne, and comprised the lands of Spynie, where the bishop's palace was, and the adjoining barony of Kinneddar. Outside of these areas, church lands were widely dispersed. The lengthy River Spey entered the Moray Firth some 14 kilometres (9 mi) to the east of Elgin. On its east side lay church lands within the upland territories in the Strathbogie including the bishops' mensal barony of Keith (Strathysla). The lands extended southwards into the highland territories on the river's upper reaches of Strathspey and in its catchment area spreading as far south as Logynkenny near the diocesan border with the lordship of Lochaber. West of the Spey, churchlands were present in areas along the fertile coastal plane between Elgin and Inverness and then down both sides of the Great Glen. The highland hinterland also contained church holdings in Glenfiddich, Strathavon, the Findhorn Valley, Strathnairn, and Badenoch.[110]

Barony and Regality of Spynie[edit]

Charter of the Barony of Spynie—granted to Bishop John Winchester (1451)[111]

James by the grace of God King of Scots, to all good men of his whole realm, cleric and laic; Greeting: Know that we to the praise and glory of the Holy Trinity, and because of thankful services by the reverend father in Christ, John Bishop of Moray, our beloved Chancellor, frequently paid in his time to our progenitor of happy memory and to be continued by him faithfully to us, gave, granted, and by this our present charter confirmed to the said reverend father in Christ, John Bishop of Moray and his successors, bishops of the Church of Moray, all and sundry the lands of the Barony of Spiny with their pertinents, dependencies and annexes, also all and whole the baronies and lands within written, viz:— the baronies of Kynnedor, Byrneth, Rothenet or Roffert, Fotherues, and Keyth, and all and whole the lands and tenements, glebes, acres, and crofts belonging to said Church of Moray, canonics, and chaplains thereof and rectors and the vicars of said diocese lying within the Sheriffdoms of Inverness and Banff, viz:— the lands of the two Kinmylies, the two Abriachans, Abertarf, Boleskin, Forthir, and the lands of the Marsh of Strathspey, the lands of Rothymurchus, the davoch of Ynche, the davoch of Lagankenzee, with the lakes and fishings of said lands, with the tower of said lake of Lagankenzee, the half davoch of Colnakewill, the lands of Auchmony and Kirkmichel, the lands of Kyncardy and Kyncardin, the town of the Church of Dolesmichel, the towns of the churches of Eskyll and Duppill, Rothes, Altyre with the Ord thereof now commonly called the Bishop's Ord, the town of the Church of Kynnore, and the crofts and acres of the churches of Kingussie and Inuerelzem, Warlaw, Dyik, Dultargusy and Chapel of Rait, and the port and fishing of the water of Lossie, and the tenandries and town of the Church of Deveth, Artralze, Croy, Moy, Duldawauch, Ewan, Undist, Lochlin or Innerin now of Abbirlour, Butruthyn, Arthilldoill, and of Core of Kynnermouth, Avachy, Kyntallargyne with ly Esse and fishing on the water of Forne, Dunbennan, Ruthven, Botary, Drumdelgie, Ryne, Innerkeithny, and the lands of Rothymay, and the lands of Domus Dei, near Elgin, the tenandry of Drumreoch, with all and sundry pertinents thereof, into one pure, entire, and free barony, to be called henceforth the Barony of Spiny, which we will to be called and be, in time to come for ever the head of said Church, which all and sundry baronies and lands foresaid, with all and sundry the pertinents and annexes, we attach to, incorporate and for ever unite to said Barony of Spiny by the tenor of the present charter: To be held and had, all and sundry the foresaid lands with the pertinents, in one pure and entire barony, to be called that of Spiny for ever in time to come, by the foresaid John Bishop of Moray, and his successors Bishops of Moray, in feu and heritage for ever, by all their right marches and divisions, in woods, plains, moors, marshes, ways, byways, waters, pools, rivulets, meadows, pastures, and pasturages, with mills, multures and their sequels, with hawkings, huntings, fishings, rights of casting peats, turfs, collieries, stone-quarries, stone and lime, smithies, breweries, heaths, brooms, with courts and their exits, herzelds, bludwitis and merchet of women, with tenandries and services of free tenants, with doves and dovecots, with ancient customs, with pit and gallows, sok, sak, tholl, theme, infangtheif, outfangtheif, and with all other and sundry liberties, commodities, and easements, and their just pertinents whatsoever, as well not named as named, which belong to foresaid lands with the pertinents, or which may in future in any way just belong, as freely, quietly, fully, completely, honourably, well, and in peace, as any barony within our kingdom, is freely granted or bestowed by us or our predecessors in times past, whatsoever: Doing therefor to us and our heirs, the said John and his successors. Bishops of Moray, one suit at Inverness yearly in the chief court thereof, held there next after the Feast of Pasche (Easter), only, in lieu of every other burden, exaction, question, demand or secular service, which of said barony with the pertinents shall justly be exacted by whomsoever, or required in whatsoever manner: In testimony of which matter we have commanded our seal to be appended to our present charter; the witnesses being the reverend fathers in Christ, William and Thomas, Bishops of the Churches of Glasgow and Galloway, our dearest cousin, William Earl of Douglas and Avondale, Lord Galloway, William Lord of Crichtoun, our chancellor and very beloved cousin; our beloved cousins, William Lord Sommerville, Patrick Lord Glamis, Master John Arrous, Archdeacon of Glasgow, and George de Schoriswode, rector of Cultre. At Stirling the 8th day of the month of November, in the year of the Lord 1451, and of our reign the 15th.

Charter of the Regality of Spynie—granted to Bishop John Winchester (1452)[112]

James, by the grace of God, King of Scots, to all good men of our whole land, clergy, and laity, greetings. Know that to the praise and glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the exaltation of the Cathedral Church of Moray, and for the gracious services rendered by the reverend father in Christ, John, Bishop of Moray, to our late father, whose memory is to be revered, and also continued faithfully to us; and also for the welfare of our soul, and that of Mary, Queen, our consort, and the souls of our ancestors and successors, we have granted, and by this present charter we grant to the said reverend father in Christ, John, Bishop of Moray, and his successors, Bishops of the Church of Moray, his barony of Spynie, and the burgh of Spynie, with all and singular their belongings, dependencies, and annexes in pure and free regal or royal power. To be held and possessed by the said John, Bishop of Moray, and his successors, Bishops of the Church of Moray, from us and our successors, in perpetual fee and heredity, with all the conveniences and profits belonging to the said barony and burgh, with the free forest and contents, fees and forfeitures, custom dues, and church advowsons, with the ways and courts of justice, the chamber, sheriffdom, and the boundaries of the said ways and courts, amercements, exits, and escheats; with harbours and passages, and with all other and singular liberties, conveniences, and amenities, and just belongings, whatsoever, as well as those not named as those named, appertaining to the regal power, or that may legitimately pertain in the future, and as freely, quietly, fully, honourably, well, and peacefully, in all things and in all ways, as any regal power granted or donated more freely, quietly, or honourably to any church or ecclesiastical persons whatsoever in our kingdom. The said John, Bishop of Moray, and his successors, Bishops of the Church of Moray, shall render us, our heirs, and successors annually, one red rose on the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, at our Burgh of Inverness, if demanded, and the supplications of devotions only for the suits of court and for any other burden, exaction, question, demand, or secular service that may be required or demanded from the said barony and burgh. In witness whereof, we have commanded our great seal to be affixed to this present charter. Witnessed by the reverend Fathers in Christ - James and William, Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow; our dearest cousin George, Earl of Angus; William Lord Crichton, our chancellor and beloved cousin; our beloved cousins William Lord Somerville, Patrick Lord Glamis, Andrew Lord Gray; Masters John Arrous, Archdeacon of Glasgow, and George of Schoriswod, Rector of Cultyr, our clerk. At Edinburgh, on the fifteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and fifty-two, and of our reign the sixteenth.

The lands and properties of the Barony of Spynie

The lands detailed in the charter of the Barony of Spynie, including all diocesan clergy utilised property, in the order that they appear in the charter:[113]

Lesser baronies
  • Kinneddar — (map ref. 1)
  • Birnie — (map ref. 2)
  • Rothernot (Rafford) — (map ref. 3)
  • Ferness — (map ref. 4)
  • Keith — (map ref. 5)

Lands lying within the sheriffdoms of Inverness and Banff
West and South of Inverness
  • The two Kinmylies west of Inverness — (map ref. 6)
  • The two Abriachins on west Loch Ness side — (map ref. 7)
  • Boleskine on the east Loch ness side — (map ref. 8)
  • Farr (Forthir) in upper Strathnairn — (map ref. 9)
Upper Strathspey
  • Lands of the marsh of Strathspey — (map ref. 10)
  • Lands of Rothiemurchas — (map ref. 11)
  • Davoch of the Inch — (map ref. 12)
  • Davoch of Logy Kenny — (map ref. 13) (included the lochs and fishings, the lands spread around Loch Laggan – near the Lordship of Lochaber border)
Mid Strathspey
  • Half-davoch centered on Coulnakyle — (map ref. 14) (Nethy Bridge)
  • Achmony — (map ref. 15) (This is listed out of place as it is in Glenurquhart, west of Loch Ness)
  • Kirkmichael — (map ref. 16)
  • Kinchurdy — (map ref. 17)
  • Kincardin — (map ref. 18) (Kincardy)
Parish church holdings, kirktons and tenanted lands
Elgin Deanery
  • Dallas — (map ref. 19)
  • Essil — (map ref. 20)
  • Dipple — (map ref. 21)
  • Rothes — (map ref. 22)
Inverness Deanery
  • Altre — (map ref. 23) (Kilmorack in Strathconon)
  • Ord of Altre — (map ref. 24) (also known as Bishop's Ord)
  • Kinnoir – unidentified, (possibly Kinnerras, Eskdale — but not the Kinnoir that is in Strathbogie)
Geographically diverse
  • Kingussie — (map ref. 25)
  • Inverallen — (map ref. 26) (Inuerelzem)
  • Wardlaw — (map ref. 27) (Warlaw)
  • Dyke — (map ref. 28) (Dyik)
  • Dalarossie — (map ref. 29) (Dultargusy)
  • Chapel of Rait — (map ref. 30)
  • Port and fishing of the water of Lossie — (map ref. 31) (R. Lossy)
  • Daviot — (map ref. 32) (Deveth)
  • Artralze — (map ref. 33) (Ardtrillan ie, Alturlie)
  • Croy — (map ref. 34)
  • Moy — (map ref. 35)
  • Duldavy — Unidentified (Duldawaugh, Duldauach – Innes suggests this may be Dunlichity )
  • Barevan — (map ref. 36) (Ewan)
  • Undist — unidentified
  • Aberlour — (map ref. 37) (Abbirlour, Lochlin or Innerin)
  • Botriphnie — (map ref. 38) (Butruthin)
  • Arndilly — (map ref. 39) (Arthilldoill)
  • Daugh of Kinermony — (map ref. 40) (Core of Kynnermonth – also written Kynnermond, Kynnermunth)
  • Allachie — (map ref. 41) (Avochie, Avachy, Alachy – above Aberlour to the south)
  • Kiltarlity — (map ref. 42) (Kyntallargyne)
  • The Esse — (map ref. 43) (the falls of Kilmorack)
  • Fishing of the water of Beauly — (map ref. 44) (R. Forne)
  • Dunbennan — (map ref. 45) (Dumbannan)
  • Ruthven — (map ref. 46)
  • Botary — (map ref. 47)
  • Drumdelgie — (map ref. 48)
  • Rhynie — (map ref. 49) (Ryne)
  • Inverkeithny — (map ref. 50) (Innerkeithny, Innerkethnie)
  • Lands of Rothiemay — (map ref. 51) (Rothymay)
  • Lands of Domus Dei — (map ref. 52) (Hospital, near Elgin)
  • Drumreoch — (map ref. 53) (tenantry in the parish of Dyke)

Building phases[edit]

Construction 1224–1270[edit]

Construction phases

The first church was markedly cruciform in shape and smaller than the present floor plan. This early structure had a choir without aisles and more truncated, and a nave with only a single aisle on its north and south sides (Fig. 4). The central tower rose above the crossing between the north and south transepts and may have held bells in its upper storey.[114] The north wall of the choir is the earliest extant structure, dating to the years immediately after the church's 1224 foundation; the clerestory windows on top of it are from the later post-1270 reconstruction.[115] This wall has blocked up windows extending to a low level above ground, indicating that it was an external wall and proving that the eastern limb then had no aisle (Fig. 5).[116]

The south transept's southern wall is nearly complete, displaying the fine workmanship of the first phase. It shows the Gothic pointed arch style in the windows that first appeared in France in the mid-12th century and was apparent in England around 1170, but hardly appeared in Scotland until the early 13th century. It also shows the round early Norman window design that continued to be used in Scotland during the entire Gothic period (Fig. 6).[117][118] The windows and the quoins are of finely cut ashlar sandstone.[119] A doorway in the southwest portion of the wall has large mouldings and has a pointed oval window placed above it. Adjacent to the doorway are two lancet-arched windows that are topped at the clerestory level with three round-headed windows.[117] The north transept has much less of its structure preserved, but much of what does remain, taken together with a study by John Slezer in 1693, shows that it was similar to the south transept, except that the north transept had no external door and featured a stone turret containing a staircase.[120]

The west front has two 13th century buttressed towers 27.4 metres (90 ft) high that were originally topped with wooden spires covered in protective lead.[121] Although the difference between the construction of the base course and the transepts suggests that the towers were not part of the initial design, it is likely that the building process was not so far advanced that the masons could fully integrate the nave and towers into each other (Fig. 7).[122]

Enlargement and reconstruction after 1270[edit]

After the fire of 1270, a programme of reconstruction was launched, with repairs and a major enlargement. Outer aisles were added to the nave, the eastern wing comprising the choir and presbytery was doubled in length and had aisles provided on its north and south sides, and the octagonal chapter house was built off the new north choir aisle (Figs. 8 & 9).[123] The new northern and southern aisles ran the length of the choir, past the first bay of the presbytery, and contained recessed and chest tombs. The south aisle of the choir contained the tomb of bishop John of Winchester, suggesting a completion date for the reconstructed aisle between 1435 and 1460 (Fig. 10). Chapels were added to the new outer aisles of the nave and were partitioned from each other with wooden screens. The first bay at the west end of each of these aisles and adjacent to the western towers did not contain a chapel but instead had an access door for the laity.[124]

In June 1390, Alexander Stewart, Robert III's brother, burned the cathedral, manses and burgh of Elgin. This fire was very destructive, requiring the central tower to be completely rebuilt along with the principal arcades of the nave. The entire western gable between the towers was reconstructed and the main west doorway and chapter house were refashioned.[125] The internal stonework of the entrance is late 14th or early 15th century and is intricately carved with branches, vines, acorns and oak leaves.[121] A large pointed arch opening in the gable immediately above the main door contained a series of windows, the uppermost of which was a circular or rose window dating from between 1422 and 1435. Just above it can be seen three coats of arms: on the right is that of the bishopric of Moray, in the middle are the Royal Arms of Scotland, and on the left is the armorial shield of Bishop Columba Dunbar (Fig. 11).[121] The walls of the nave are now very low or even at foundation level, except one section in the south wall which is near its original height. This section has windows that appear to have been built in the 15th century to replace the 13th-century openings: they may have been constructed following the 1390 attack (Fig. 12).[126] Nothing of the elevated structure of the nave remains, but its appearance can be deduced from the scarring seen where it attached to the eastern walls of the towers. Nothing of the crossing now remains following the collapse of the central tower in 1711.[124] Elgin Cathedral is unique in Scotland in having an English-style octagonal chapter house and French-influenced double aisles along each side of the nave; in England, only Chichester Cathedral has similar aisles.[127][128] The chapter house, which had been attached to the choir through a short vaulted vestry, required substantial modifications and was now provided with a vaulted roof supported by a single pillar (Figs. 13 & 14). The chapter house measures 10.3 metres (34 ft) high at its apex and 11.3 metres (37 ft) from wall to opposite wall; it was substantially rebuilt by Bishop Andrew Stewart (1482–1501), whose coat of arms is placed on the central pillar.[86] Bishop Andrew was the half-brother of King James II.[129] The delay in the completion of these repairs until this bishop's episcopacy demonstrates the extent of the damage from the 1390 attack.[130]

19th and 20th century stabilisation[edit]

In 1847–8 several of the old houses associated with the cathedral on the west side were demolished, and some minor changes were made to the boundary wall. Structural reinforcement of the ruin and some reconstruction work began in the early 20th century, including restoration of the east gable rose window in 1904 and the replacement of the missing form pieces, mullions, and decorative ribs in the window in the north-east wall of the chapter house (Fig. 15).[131] By 1913, repointing the walls and additional waterproofing of the wall tops were completed. In 1924 the ground level was lowered and the 17th-century tomb of the Earl of Huntly was repositioned.[132] Further repairs and restoration ensued during the 1930s, including the partial dismantling of some 19th century buttressing (Fig. 16), the reconstruction of sections of the nave piers using recovered pieces (Fig. 17), and the addition of external roofing to the vault in the south choir in 1939 (Fig. 18).[133] From 1960 to 2000, masons restored the cathedral's crumbling stonework (Fig. 19) and between 1976 and 1988, the window tracery of the chapter house was gradually replaced, and its re-roofing was completed (Fig. 20). Floors, glazing, and a new roof were added to the southwest tower between 1988 and 1998 and comparable restoration work was completed on the northwest tower between 1998 and 2000 (Fig. 21).


Referenced figures[edit]

Remains of chanonry
Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3
The Pans Port The Precentor's manse The boundary wall of the Archdeacon's manse with rounded arch gate

Building 1224 – 1270
Fig. 4 Fig. 5 Fig. 6 Fig. 7
The 1224 establishment and then the enlargement after 1270 North wall of choir showing traces of blocked-in windows The south wall of the southern transept Integrated tower and nave construction

Building 1270 – Reformation
Fig. 8 Fig. 9 Fig. 10 Fig. 11 Fig. 12 Fig. 13 Fig. 14
The octagonal chapter house on the left, and behind it indications of the now missing north choir aisle The nave in the foreground, the transepts in the middle ground and the choir and choir aisles in the rear ground Tomb and effigy of Bishop John Winchester (1435–1460) in the south aisle of the choir West gable apex and arms of Bishopric of Moray (left), Royal arms of Scotland (centre) and Bishop Columba de Dunbar (right) The 15th century replacement windows in the 13th century openings Interior of the chapter house showing the central column supporting the vaulted ceiling The bench reserved for the dean and dignitaries within the chapter house

19th and 20th century stabilisation
Fig. 15 Fig. 16 Fig. 17 Fig. 18 Fig. 19 Fig. 20 Fig. 21
The replacement of the missing form pieces, mullions, and decorative ribs in the window in the north-east wall of the chapter house Partial dismantling of some 19th-century buttressing in the 1930s The rebuilt sections of the nave piers using recovered pieces External roofing of the vault in the south choir in 1939 During the last forty years of the 20th century crumbling stonework was restored Between 1976 and 1988, the chapter house window tracery was gradually replaced and its re-roofing completed Floors, glazing, and new roofs were added to the west towers between 1988 and 2000


  1. ^ See Young,[67] who described the positions of Duffus and Unthank manses as being at the north corners of King Street, so does Watson,[68] and Mackintosh.[69] Mackintosh also includes two images that show both of these manses, but before King Street was established. In it, Unthank is shown in detail with Duffus partly hidden behind it and with North College Street curving into the Cathedral perimeter road.[70] In turn, The Duffus Manse is shown equally detailed and with Unthank, partly obscured, behind it. Again, the curvature of the road shows Unthank rotated away to view almost as side-on.[71] The images also show that both manses were not set back from the road but their frontages actually formed part of the property boundaries.
  2. ^ Bishop Andrew Stewart in his convocation of 1489, was annoyed at the dilapidation of the precinct and that both the Panns Port and the West Gate to the Burgh were non-functional and had to be repaired. That left the South Gate as the only fully working access and egress point for the chanonry. This was obviously unacceptable and may have been the reason for ordering that a new gate be constructed adjacent to the manse of Botarie. He was also unhappy that some manses—probably lacking since the burnings of 1390 and 1402—had still not been replaced. He placed the potential of large fines on 13 canons including some dignitaries, if rectification was delayed. The nearness of the new gate would obviously have been a benefit for the manse of Rhynie and may account for its externality of the precinct following Bishop Andrew's warnings.


  1. ^ Boardman, Early Stewart Kings, pp. 235–6
  2. ^ Barrow, Kingship and Unity, pp. 67–68
  3. ^ Cowan, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 206
  4. ^ a b Barrow, Kingship and Unity, p. 68
  5. ^ Watt, Fasti, p. 278
  6. ^ Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters, pp. 28–30, 44; notes and translation, pp. 279–88; See Kenneth Veitch, Replanting Paradise": Alexander I and the Reform of Religious Life in Scotland in The Innes Review, 52 (Autumn 2001), pp. 140–6, for arguments about the date 1114.
  7. ^ Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters, p. 63
  8. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral and Diocese, p. 25
  9. ^ Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500–1286, 2 Vols (Edinburgh, 1922), vol. ii, pp. 173–4, 183; Alan Orr Anderson, Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500–1286 (London, 1908), republished, Marjorie Anderson (ed.) (Stamford, 1991), pp. 158, 166; for confusion with "Malcolm MacHeth", and analysis, see Richard Oram, David: The King Who Made Scotland (Gloucestershire, 2004), pp. 77, 84–7, 90–1, 93, 101, 113–5, 117–8, 189.
  10. ^ a b c d e Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 5
  11. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral and Diocese, pp. 25–6
  12. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral and Diocese, p. 26
  13. ^ a b Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral and Diocese, pp. 26–7
  14. ^ a b c d e Cowan & Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 206
  15. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 21
  16. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, pp. 21–2
  17. ^ Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 119
  18. ^ a b Lost Episcopal Acta
  19. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral p. 23
  20. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral and Diocese, p 30
  21. ^ a b c Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 93
  22. ^ Boardman, Early Stewart Kings, pp. 72–3
  23. ^ Discussion on the quarrel, see: Grant, Alexander: The Wolf of Badenoch in Moray: Province and People, ed. Seller, W D H, Edinburgh, pp. 143–161; Oram, Richard D: Alexander Bur, Bishop of Moray, 1362–1397 in Barbara Crawford (ed): Church Chronicle and Learning in Medieval and Early Renaissance Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999, pp. 202–204
  24. ^ Grant, Moray: Province and People, p. 151
  25. ^ a b Grant, Moray: Province and People, p. 152
  26. ^ Boardman, Early Stewart Kings, pp. 175–6
  27. ^ McCormack, Excavations at Pluscarden Priory, p. 393
  28. ^ Shaw, History of Moray, p. 388
  29. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 97
  30. ^ Boardman, Early Stewart Kings, p. 260
  31. ^ a b c Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 6
  32. ^ Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 83
  33. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, pp. 97–8
  34. ^ Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 91
  35. ^ MacDonald, W. Rae: Notes on the Heraldry of Elgin and its Surrounding District, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 1899 Vol. 34 pp. 344–429
  36. ^ McNeil, MacQueen, Atlas of Scottish History, p. 355
  37. ^ a b c Fanning, Catholic Encyclopedia, article: Chapter
  38. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 22
  39. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 80
  40. ^ Historic Scotland, Investigating Elgin Cathedral, p. 10
  41. ^ a b c Cowan & Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, pp. 206–7
  42. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 20
  43. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in Scotland, pp. 20–1
  44. ^ Watt, Fasti, pp. 316, 317
  45. ^ Cowan, Parishes, Medieval Scotland, pp. 217–8
  46. ^ a b c Shaw, History of Moray, pp. 331–2
  47. ^ Innes, Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis pp. XVII–XXIII
  48. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 73
  49. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland p. 69
  50. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, pp. 30–1
  51. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, pp. 65–6
  52. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 84
  53. ^ Fawcett,Elgin Cathedral, pp. 6–7
  54. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 7
  55. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, p. 42
  56. ^ a b Dalyell, Records of Bishopric of Moray pp. 13–4
  57. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland p. 83
  58. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland p. 79
  59. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 171
  60. ^ Hall, MacDonald, Perry & Terry, The Archaeology of Elgin, p. 813
  61. ^ Cant,Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 31
  62. ^ Lewis & Pringle, Spynie Palace, p. 2
  63. ^ Firth, New map of Elgin chanonry, pp. 68-100
  64. ^ Cant, Historical Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 28
  65. ^ Young, Annals of Elgin, p. 402
  66. ^ Young, Annals of Elgin, p. 394
  67. ^ Young, Annals of the Parish of Elgin, p. 394
  68. ^ Watson, Morayshire Described, p. 175
  69. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, pp. 111-114
  70. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, p. 112
  71. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, p. 113
  72. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, p. 127
  73. ^ Hall, Et al., Archaeology of Elgin, p. 813
  74. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 28–9
  75. ^ Byatt, Elgin: A history, p. 19
  76. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, p. 35
  77. ^ Firth, New map of Elgin chanonry, pp. 83-4, 95
  78. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, pp. 29-30
  79. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, p. 43
  80. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 44-5
  81. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, p. 137
  82. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 94
  83. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 137-8
  84. ^ Taylor, Edward I in North Scotland pp. 213–4
  85. ^ The Precentor's manse was granted to Alexander Seton simultaneously with his appointment as lay commendator of Pluscarden Priory. In 1604 he became Chancellor of Scotland and then 1st Earl of Dunfermline in 1606. He renamed the manse to Dunfermline House and became Provost of Elgin (1591–1607) and then Provost of Edinburgh (1598–1608). He died in 1622. See Byatt, Elgin: A History, p. 21
  86. ^ a b Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 92
  87. ^ Cowan, Medieval Religious Houses, pp. 118, 127
  88. ^ Cowan, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 131
  89. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 181
  90. ^ a b Cowan, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 179
  91. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in Scotland, p. 153
  92. ^ Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 95
  93. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 14
  94. ^ Records of the Parliament of Scotland
  95. ^ Shaw, History of Moray, pp. 284–5
  96. ^ John Hill Burton, Register of the Privy Council of Scotland: 1545–1569, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1877), p. 677.
  97. ^ Brown, Early Travellers in Scotland, p. 124
  98. ^ Shaw, History of Moray p. 285
  99. ^ Shaw, History of Moray, pp. 290–1
  100. ^ a b MacGibbon, Ecclesiastical Architecture, p. 123
  101. ^ Cramond, Records of Elgin, p. 337
  102. ^ Mackintosh, Elgin Past and Present, p.68
  103. ^ a b c Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 11
  104. ^ Johnson, Journey to Western Isles p. 19
  105. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 9, 11
  106. ^ Shaw, History of Moray, p. 290
  107. ^ "Inverness Courier Extract". The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century. 28 April 1841. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  108. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, p. 141
  109. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 142-3
  110. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 141-2
  111. ^ Fraser-Mackintosh, Invernessiana, pp. 121-3
  112. ^ Young, The Parish of Spynie, pp. 328-9
  113. ^ Innes,Registry of Moray, No 193, p. 223
  114. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral Guide, p. 4
  115. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral p. 20
  116. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral pp. 20–21
  117. ^ a b Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 90
  118. ^ Butler, Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys, pp. 24–25
  119. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral pp. 21–22
  120. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral p. 26
  121. ^ a b c Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p.87
  122. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral p. 15
  123. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 16–17
  124. ^ a b Oram, Moray & Badenoch, p. 89
  125. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 26
  126. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral p. 60
  127. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral p. 18
  128. ^ Cant, Historic Elgin and its Cathedral, p. 25
  129. ^ Keith, Historical Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, p. 145
  130. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 62
  131. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 86
  132. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, p. 71
  133. ^ Fawcett, Elgin Cathedral, pp. 12–13


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Further reading[edit]

  • Clark, W, A series of Views of the Ruins of Elgin Cathedral, Elgin 1826
  • Crook, J. Mordant & Port, MH, The History of the King's Works, London, 1973
  • Simpson, A T & Stevenson, S, Historic Elgin, the archaeological implications of development, Glasgow: University of Glasgow, Dept. of Archaeology, 1982.

External links[edit]

57°39′02″N 03°18′20″W / 57.65056°N 3.30556°W / 57.65056; -3.30556