Grand Tour Of Scotland: Exploring Orkney #326

Day 7: 17 August 2019 ~ Kirkwall – St Magnus Cathedral Interior

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
  • Location: St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
  • Date Taken: 2019-08-17
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-200 mm F/3-5.6 IS
  • Exposure Program: Manual
  • F-Stop: f/5.6
  • Exposure Time: 1/1000 sec
  • ISO Speed: ISO-800
  • Focal Length: 200 mm
  • Metering Mode: Center Weighted Average
  • Handheld

St Magnus Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall dominates the skyline of Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney, a group of islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. It is the most northerly cathedral in the United Kingdom, a fine example of Romanesque architecture built for the bishops of Orkney when the islands were ruled by the Norse Earls of Orkney. It is owned not by the church, but by the burgh of Kirkwall as a result of an act of King James III of Scotland following Orkney’s annexation by the Scottish Crown in 1468. It has its own dungeon.

Construction began in 1137, and it was added to over the next 300 years. The first bishop was William the Old, and the diocese was under the authority of the Archbishop of Nidaros in Norway. It was for Bishop William that the nearby Bishop’s Palace was built.

Before the Reformation, the cathedral was presided over by the Bishop of Orkney, whose seat was in Kirkwall.

There are four bells in St Magnus, donated in 1528 by Bishop Robert Maxwell. The smallest bell bears no inscription or date and was not hung. According to the antiquary Sir Henry Edward Leigh Dryden, fourth and seventh Dryden baronet (1818–1899), “They are not and probably never have been rung by the common processes of wheel or crank but by a rope applied so as by a lateral traction to make the tongue strike the side. One end of a short rope is fastened to the tongue and the other to the wall; a second rope is fastened to the middle of the first and the lower end of it pulled by the ringer, which of course pulls the tongue to one side. The notes produced by the bells are not at diatonic intervals, being about five quarter tones apart. They are about G ¼ tone sharp, A ½ tone sharp, С ¼ tone sharp. The second bell is used for the clock and is struck by the clock hammer on the outside, giving, when so struck, a note lower than that given when struck by the tongue.”

The third bell is described as “tenor G ¼ tone sharp” and has a diameter of 41.5 inches (105 cm) and height of 33 inches (84 cm). Dryden notes that the third bell bears an inscription in plain capitals raised in two lines, rendered here in the original spelling: “Made by master Robert Maxwell, Bishop of Orkney, the year of God MDXXVIII. the year of the reign of King James the V. Robert Borthwick made me in the castle of Edinburgh.”

In 1671, when the tower of the church was struck by lightning and burned, the bells fell into the church. It is said that townspeople hurried soft material into the church to catch the bells, should they fall, but despite their efforts, the largest bell did suffer a rift.

Therefore, in July 1682, the church authorities contracted with Alexander Geddes, merchant in Kirkwall, to deliver the bell to Amsterdam, where it was recast by Claudius Fremy. Geddes returned the bell to Kirkwall on 23 August of the same year.

The original turret clock was built in 1761 by an Aberdeen clockmaker named Hugh Gordon.

The organ was installed in 1925 and built by Henry Willis. It has been maintained by the same firm ever since.

Thank you very much for taking the time to join me on my travels through Scotland one Photo at a time. I hope you enjoyed it just as much as I did.

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Till next time, safe travels and keep dreaming.

Have a fabulous day.


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