St Machar’s Cathedral

St Machar’s Cathedral stands high and proud looking down on the River Don. While technically not a cathedral due to not having a bishop, it’s one of Aberdeen’s most popular religious places of worship.

As a cathedral, you would expect it to be heaped in history, and it is. There are almost 1500 years of history! A place of worship was started in the Old Aberdeen area in 580AD. Whilst not confirmed, it’s almost sure that the Cathedral’s ground is the first location of a building. The Cathedral is the oldest building in Aberdeen, built from granite which much of the city is.

It became a cathedral in the 1130s, when the seat of the bishop was transferred from Mortlach, Dufftown, which is a town about 60 miles north-west of Aberdeen.

Famously William Wallace was killed in 1305, and Wallace was depicted in the blockbuster movie Braveheart, played by Hollywood A-lister Mel Gibson. He was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to Kind Edward the first. He was hung, drawn and quartered, and his left arm is said to be in the walls of the Cathedral. In the First War of Independence, his enemies wanted to send a strong message to Scotland that further uprisings would not be tolerated. There is an impressive William Wallace monument in the centre of Aberdeen, just outside the perimeter of Union Terrace Gardens.

The Cathedral has a number of interesting features, the first being numerous outstanding stained glass windows. On every side of the Cathedral, there are these incredibly detailed windows—the most impressive being on the east window, where the windows stretch to almost 20 feet. From the time constructed, these were some of the finest windows in the world.

The church has two massive church spires which reach into the sky. These make the Cathedral very noticeable from the surrounding area of Old Aberdeen.

As with many building of this age, they are susceptible to decay and damage. It took until 1953 for the east end of the Cathedral to be restored to its former glory.

With its size and height, and investment in modern music electronics, many musical events have taken place at the Cathedral over the years. Most religious but not all. With the advanced tech and incredible space, it makes for a unique experience. BBC Songs of Praise has been filmed there on a number of occasions over the years. A testament to the staff and upkeep.

It’s open all year round, for worship and for visitors. With fantastic photo opportunities, and even just for a general browse, it comes highly recommended.

Next: Gordon Highlanders Musuem