The history of Scotland carved in stone.
You’ll need to engage the extreme edges of your imagination when you visit Elgin Cathedral. Although substantial amounts of masonry still stand, it doesn’t make it easy for your mind to subconsciously fill in the gaps.
Although the cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1270 and 1390, the real culprit behind the current decline, was the Scottish parliament, who in 1567, following the Scottish Reformation, decided to allow the removal of the lead from the roof. (In a salutary twist of fate, the ship carrying the stripped lead to Holland, promptly sank off Aberdeen – makes you think…).
So when you arrive at Elgin Cathedral, the first impression isn’t terribly grand. But the towers are impressive – and well worth the climb to the top for the panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
The scale of building must once have been notable, but what really struck me most now, are the many remnants of carved stone.
As ever, these poignant reminders of people long dead left me wondering about their lives in this far northern region. Military and religious in equal measure.
The stone bishop looks for all the world like a giant piece from the Isle of Lewis chess set.
But the chapter house was my favourite part of the building – I could have sat and stared at the ceiling for hours.
Elgin Cathedral had a long and turbulent history – if you want all the gory details click on the Wiki link at the bottom of the post. I need to find out how Alexander Stewart, achieved the nickname the Wolf of Badenoch – he doesn’t sound like a chap you’d want to meet in a dark alley after midnight…
But for all the building, fires, re-building and deliberate destruction – it’s the tantalising glimpses into past lives left carved in stone, that make Elgin special for me. Recumbent knights, giant bishops, mysterious symbols on grave stones and delicate foliage – all telling us something about the people who were here before us.
For more information…
This is the official Historic Scotland site for Elgin Cathedral
And this is the detailed history from Wiki – get yourself a cup of tea before you settle down to read it.