Where is Britain’s Most Northerly Cathedral?

Whenever I lay eyes upon a cathedral, the desire to cross over the threshold becomes a compulsion. My feet yearn to walk upon stone steps hollowed by ancient footfalls. Inevitably, I push open the heavy carved doors to see what’s inside. And it was no different during my last visit to Orkney…
St Magnus Cathedral rises majestically above the texture of Kirkwall’s low skyline; its red and yellow sandstone walls first saw the light of day back in 1137. A Viking earl – or yarl, Rognvald, wanted a resting place for the relics of his uncle, St Magnus. Both were great men by all accounts.
Until the 15th century the cathedral was managed ecclesiastically from Norway by the archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). When Orkney became a Scottish possession, it came under the sway of the church in St Andrews.
The Reformation wrought few structural changes but with the removal of any religious regalia and walls, whitewashed, the church was brought reluctantly into the Protestant world. Renovations took place in the 19th and 20th centuries, including removal of the bland whitewash to reveal warm layers of sandstone, and decorative tiles were laid, probably over stone flags.
It was such a joy to explore the peaceful interior and wander midst the massive colonnades. On a sunny day, the sun streams in from the windows high above and the golden tones of the sandstone bring to life the detail of wood carvings and old grave slabs, some of which have been elevated to the walls. It would be equally lovely amongst the shadows cast by candlelight. The history of the place is palpable. Well worth a visit, if you find yourself in this northerly paradise!

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4 thoughts on “Where is Britain’s Most Northerly Cathedral?

  1. “My feet yearn to walk upon stone steps hollowed by ancient footfalls.” Beautiful. And thanks for taking us with you.

  2. Jo Woolf says:

    This is one place I’m really longing to see!! Lovely to ‘visit’ it in your photos and descriptions. Look at those amazing columns! What an incredible place.

  3. diaspora52 says:

    Hope you get there one day, Jo!

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