St Magnus Cathedral – Kirkwall Orkney, Scotland

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Iceland Cruise March 2018 – Continuing with our visit to Kirkwall, Orkney, we visited St Magnus Cathedral, where the door was open wide for all to enter.  Luckily there were only a few visitors, so I could take quite a few people free photos.  The building, to me, looks pink, a lovely rose pink, the stonework is a patched up here and there, but you are looking at a structure, that the earliest stages of building would have been in 1137.  Only fragments, of the building that was based on Durham Cathedral remain, the walls, ceiling and pillars would have would have originally been plastered and painted with colourful floral patterns.  

By 1152 the choir and three pillars of the nave had been built, by the mid 12th century the apse was also in existence at the east end of the Cathedral  behind the high alter.  Many years later a gasket containing the bones of St Magnus was discovered in this area. Over the years the Cathedral has been restored, with the white washed walls, which happen during the Reformation, removed, and the lovely warm red sandstone was then revealed. Stained glass windows, replaced formally plain ones.  But in the 1960’s it became clear the the whole building was in serious danger of subsiding.  Sinking foundations meant that the nave was gradually leaning westward and the gable was endanger of collapsing into the street.  An appeal committee raised £300,000 and in 1974 restoration works were carried out with metal support girders, which are concealed by the nave and clerestory and the building was saved.  More restoration work has since been carried out, and wherever possible the red sandstone is retained.

St Magnus is a building that requires lots of exploring, I really only had about 30 minutes, but I think I have caught some of that lovely red sandstone.  I loved the carved pew ends, they are not medieval, but come from one of the more recent restorations.  The headstones on the walls, are so interesting, they once covered burials in the nave.  The stones contain many reminders of death, skulls, crossbones and hourglasses.  I did miss a few things, so this post will have to suffice, until I can returned to photograph the rest.


10 Replies to “St Magnus Cathedral – Kirkwall Orkney, Scotland”

  1. Oh, I do hope you get to go back! What an incredible place. The red sandstone gives a sense of warmth, although I don’t imagine it is actually warm. Did you have an organ concert while you were there? 🙂

    1. Yes I hope we go back, should do its only a short ferry crossing 🙂 It is a lovely coloured building. No we didn’t have time for a concert, but maybe when we go back 🙂

  2. The thing that stands out as I go through these, besides the impressive larger scale design elements, is the attention to detail, like the carvings you capture and the ornate elements that make up almost all the wood and brickwork. Really unique church too.

    1. Thank you, It’s a lovely building to photograph, full of interesting shapes and colours. I would like to go back and really spend sometime taking more photos, rather than just take what I did in about 30 mins. But I enjoyed what I did 🙂

  3. Wow, what an amazing structure, beautifully captured! The stonework and Wood carvings are wonderful. Don’t think I would be comfortable siting next to a gargoyle climbing up my armrest. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, it is an amazing building to capture, just wish I could have spent more time taking photos, maybe next time. Ha ha the gargoyles as quite cute if you smooth them 🙂

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