St Machar Cathedral

The Cathedral is a fine example of a fortified kirk, with twin towers built in the fashion of 14th century tower houses and now with spires added in the 15th century.

About this church

A place of worship was established in this area about 580AD and it is highly likely that it was indeed on its current location. A stone carved with a Celtic cross, a clear indication of the sites Celtic roots, believed to have been associated with this original church is now on display in the church. 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. In the 13th century the Cathedral had to undergo extensive restoration becoming a fine example of a fortified Kirk. In 1305 Sir William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered and his dismembered body was sent to different parts of Scotland. Whether his left arm was indeed interred within the walls of St Machars it is not known. Shortly after the war of independence construction was continued and it must have been a glorious sight when the church was finally complete in 1530.

With the reformation of 1560 change came. The Cathedral lost its status as cathedral. While it is a part of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, which has neither bishops nor cathedrals, St Machars is a cathedral only by name. 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 Cromwells troops into Aberdeen in 1654. Looking for material for his fort he removed the stones from the empty and destroyed bishops 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. It took until 1953 to bring the east end into the state that it is today complete with three stained glass windows.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Train station within 250m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Non-accessible toilets in church
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Café in church
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike
  • Church shop or souvenirs

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