The Doric Columns
St Machar's Cathedral
A place of worship was established in this area about 580 AD and it is highly likely that it was indeed on its current location. It became a Cathedral in the 1130s when the seat of the Bishop was transferred from Mortlach, near Dufftown to Old Aberdeen under David I. By 1165 a Norman style cathedral stood on the site.
Old Machar - was originally a small hamlet, consisting only of a few scattered cottages, was, from the erection of a chapel near the ancient bridge of Seaton by St. Machar, in the 9th century, called the Kirktown of Seaton, but was undistinguished by any event of importance, till the year 1137, when it became the seat of a diocese, on the removal of the see of Aberdeen, by David I., from Mortlach, in the county of Banff, where it was originally founded by Malcolm II., and had continued for more than 120 years. Bishop Kinnimond, at that time prelate of the see, founded a cathedral church on the site of the ancient chapel of St. Machar, which, towards the end of the 13th century, was taken down by Bishop Cheyne, for the purpose of erecting a structure of more ample dimensions, and of more appropriate character; but, in the contested succession to the throne of Scotland, becoming an adherent of Baliol, he was compelled to retire into exile, and the rebuilding of the Cathedral was suspended. On the establishment of Robert Bruce, however, that monarch recalled the exiled Bishop, who recommenced the work, which was continued by his successors, of whom Bishop Elphinstone, the founder of King's College, with the assistance of James IV., made rapid progress in the rebuilding of the Cathedral, which was completed by Bishop Dunbar, in 1518, and, since the abolition of episcopacy in Scotland, has been appropriated as the parish church.
In the 13th century the Cathedral had to undergo extensive restoration. This was started under the instruction of Bishop Cheyne (1282 to 1328). We have him to thank that the building turned out to be a fine example of a fortified Kirk. Construction was continued under among others Bishop Alexander Kinnimund (1355-80) and Bishop William Elphinstone(1431-1514). In his lifetime the cathedral was constructed to its biggest form. The Nave and Towers on the west - which form the modern church were only one part. To the east of the Nave, there was a crossing which had one large Central Tower. There was also a Choir begun by Bishop Elphinstone to its East (but never finished) and transepts pointing North and South. The North Transept was built by Bishop Leighton and the South by Bishop Dunbar
Gavin Dunbar's Seal
hastened the dilapidation of the Cathedral was the removal, in 1568, of
the lead from the roof by order of the Lords of the Privy Council, who ordained
" that the leidis of the saidis kirkis (Elgin and Aberdeen) salbe takin doun
with diligence, and sauld and disponit upoun, for interteneing and sustentatioun
of the saidis men of weir and utheris neidfull chargeis of the commoun weill of
this realme." Dr. Walter de Gray Birch mentions that Bishop John de Pilmor,
who occupied the see of Moray from 1293 till 1298, had on the obverse of his
seal a representation of the Holy Trinity " between four circular plaques,
containing the customary emblems of the Four Evangelists." Dr. Birch adds : "
The Holy Trinity reappears on many other seals of prelates of this See, in
company with figures of Bishops, the Virgin and Child, St. John the Evangelist,
St. Mary Magdalene, Michael
the Archangel in combat with
Satan, or shields of arms."
With the Reformation of 1560 change came. The Cathedral lost its status as cathedral. Its treasures were taken and its land sold. Once immediately before and during the reformation and then later when the conflict with Charles I escalated, recovered its Cathedral status. This also sheds some light on the question why St Machar’s is referred to as Cathedral. While it is a part of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, which has neither bishops nor cathedrals, St Machar's is a cathedral only by name: The Cathedral Church of St Machar. This seemingly trivial distinction is nevertheless a reminder of serious conflicts which more than once in the in the middle of the 17th century led to civil wars that engulfed Scotland, England and Ireland. General Monck led Cromwell's troops into Aberdeen in 1654. Looking for material for his fort he removed the stones from the empty and destroyed Bishop's Palace to the east and from the disused and probably never finished Choir. It is not clear if this led to a weakening of the base of the central tower. A storm in 1688 caused its fall into the transepts and crossing, and damaged the 7 pointed arches and round columned Nave as well. The east end of the Nave was closed off by 1704, though work to tidy up the effects of the collapse of the tower on what was left continued until as recently as 1953, when a new east end was inserted into the nave, complete with three stained glass windows.
The tomb of Bishop Gavin Dunbar is at St Machars Cathedral, Aberdeen. Gavin Dunbar was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen on 5th November 1518 and died on 9th March 1532.
He became a great benefactor not only of King's College, but of the town. It was he who took over the plans left after the death of Bishop Elphinstone and created the Bridge of Dee which opened road access to the City, from the South.
Dunbar built the twin towers at St Machar's Cathedral and gave its magnificent ceiling at his own expense. It comprises 48 heraldic shields including the arms of Scottish monarchs, nobles, Kings of Europe, and Scottish Bishops. The work on the ceiling was carried out by James Winter of Angus. When he died in 1532, he was buried in the South Transept of the Cathedral. This was virtually destroyed after the collapse of the great central tower in 1688, and a recumbent statue of white marble of Dunbar was broken into pieces during the Reformation.
The splendour of the 6 foot richly carved arch of
Morayshire freestone is still obvious despite its exposure to the weather. A
Bishop's mitre surmounts the Dunbar coat of arms and his initials, at the
right hand side.
To the east of the church, the ground plan and some of the walls of the crossing and transepts can still be made out. These are in the care of Historic Scotland and include an alcove in which Bishop Gavin Dunbar was laid to rest in 1532. Beyond the old transepts, no sign remains of the Choir removed in 1654.
General Monck led Cromwell's troops into Aberdeen in 1654.
Looking for material for improving the Castlehill Fort Ramparts - he removed the stones from the empty and destroyed Bishop's Palace to the east and from the disused and probably never finished Choir.
It is not clear if this led to a weakening of the base of the Central Tower. A storm in 1688 caused its fall into the transepts and crossing, and damaged the Nave as well.
This agreement, dating from 1259, concerned a dispute between the Bishop of Aberdeen and the Abbey of Lindores about "a certain land called Threpland.
This lies between the land of Boyndington which belongs to the said Bishop and the land of Newton which belongs to the said Abbot and Community.
It begins at the Ford of Gethyn which is from the western part of Boyndington and extends from the same Ford by the River of Gethyn northwards as far as a certain large syke called Fulleche.
By the same syke it ascends towards the west as far as a certain bridge which is beyond the same syke towards Newton and so descending from the same bridge by the same syke in a circuit as far as the foresaid Ford of Gethyn." These lands are in Rayne Parish.
Parish of Birse
Parish of New Deer
11 Chanonry - Rayne Manse
Sometime in the 15th century there were complaints that the Manses were run-down and Boundary Walls needed to be repaired. The Canons who resided in the Manses were instructed to fix the walls or be penalised. The household items in the Medieval Manses were to be handed down by each Canon to his successor and may have included simple bed linen, kitchen utensils, and necessary furniture for the public room and items needed for the brewing of ale. There are very little details of the later owners of this Manse but there was a charter of confirmation in 1569 in favour of John Erskine of Balhaggartie as owner of the Rayne Manse. The manse was demolished in 1722 while in possession of Patrick Walker of Torreleith. However, Ordnance Survey Maps of 1867-9 and 1900-4 indicated a house or dwelling on the property; this dwelling is also evident today. The
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