St Magnus Cathedral at the heart of Kirkwall
St Magnus Cathedral at the heart of Kirkwall
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  • St Magnus Cathedral at the heart of Kirkwall
  • the red sandstone of St Magnus Cathedral
  • fine details have withstood the centuries
  • the remains of St Magnus rest in one of the pillars
  • the towering columns of St Magnus Cathedral
  • the imposing St Magnus Cathedral and its graveyard
  • the bell from the Royal Oak inside St Magnus Cathedral
Orkney St Magnus Cathedral

One of Orkney’s Viking splendours is St Magnus Cathedral, a glorious north-west European Romanesque building with later soaring Gothic extensions.  It is the best preserved medieval cathedral in Scotland.  Its massive Norman pillars are similar in style to Durham Cathedral as the Durham masons were employed in Kirkwall.

Built in the time when Orkney was ruled by Viking earls, a stone minster was founded in 1137 by Earl Rognvald in memory of his uncle St Magnus who was martyred on the Orkney isle of Egilsay.  Kirkwall became an important pilgrimage site where the bones of St Magnus were placed in a shrine and miracles were said to happen.  Although the shrine was later destroyed, a skull with an injury compatible with St Magnus’ murder with an axe was found in a pillar during restoration work.  It was carefully replaced.  The cathedral was originally under the Norwegian archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim) and later St Andrews diocese in Scotland.  It was assigned to the people of Orkney in 1486 by King James III of Scotland.  It still belongs to the people, not the church and is mainly used by the Church of Scotland for services.  The cathedral is also a concert and St Magnus Festival venue.

Inside there are many 17th-century grave markers featuring carved skulls and coffins and a hanging wooden marker called a mort-brod.  A memorial to the Royal Oak ship which was destroyed in Scapa Flow by a German U-boat with the loss of 833 lives sees a page of a book with the sailors’ names inscribed turned every week.  There are fine stone memorials to Orcadians; Arctic explorer Dr John Rae and African pioneer William Balfour Baikie.  Public tours of the tower, which should be booked, offer the opportunity of seeing spectacular 360 degree views from the top and a close-up look at the clock, stained glass windows, galleries and an unusual Norwegian-style bell ringing method.  A highlight of the tour is a double hangman’s ladder used until the 18th century.

Stephen Frost - My new image of St. Magnus Cathedral, in Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney #dreamtime http://t.co/ohQhpPROD0
Stephen Frost - My new image of St. Magnus Cathedral, in Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney #dreamtime http://t.co/ohQhpPROD0
Stephen Frost - My new image:Historic Nordic bible displayed in St. Magnus Cathedral, Orkney. #dreamstime http://t.co/8FXuzjdDD9
Orkney Council - Late night service to be held at St Magnus Cathedral to mark outbreak of WW1 http://t.co/X8bMJbeIZ8 http://t.co/kqHyxq9Qvf
Stephen Frost - My new image:Historic Nordic bible displayed in St. Magnus Cathedral, Orkney. #dreamstime http://t.co/8FXuzjdDD9
Sam - RT @photonicstream: My New Interior Photo of St. Magnus Cathedral, in Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney #photo #dreamstime http://t.co/aycO?
Google News
University graduate Sophie Turner tells how love for Orkney made her give up ...
Sophie said: ?St Magnus Cathedral is the main project for the post and it's really interesting. The cathedral actually belongs to the islanders but is managed by Orkney Islands Council who, together with Friends of St Magnus Cathedral and Historic ...
Scottish Daily Record
St Magnus International Festival, Orkney: review
But it was just one element in the eclectic mix that current artistic director (and fellow composer) Alasdair Nicolson had put together for St Magnus 2014 ? from brooding ecclesiastical paintings by Norwegian artist Håkon Gullvåg in St Magnus Cathedral ...
Telegraph.co.uk
Gig review: St Magnus Festival, Orkney
The same could easily be said of the eclectic programme he'd put together ? from sumptuous Biblical paintings by Norwegian artist Håkon Gullvåg hanging amid the red brick of St Magnus Cathedral, to John Sessions performing as Harry Lauder, to knitting ...
Scotsman
Night time service to mark declaration of World War One
A late night vigil is to be held at St Magnus Cathedral to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The special service will end at 11pm ? the exact time Britain declared itself at war with Germany on August 4, 1914.
The Orcadian