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Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys

The following is from Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys by Rev. D. Butler, M.A.:

Chapter III - Cathedrals

Diocese of Dunkeld

Dunkeld is situated amid lovely scenery, and was from the earliest times a religious centre. The name means fort of the Culdees. After the destruction of Iona by the Norsemen in the beginning of the ninth century, Dunkeld became the seat of the Columban authority in Scotland, and part of the relics of St. Columba were brought here by King Kenneth Macalpine in 850. Its abbot was named Bishop of Fortreum, but in 865 the primacy was transferred to Abernethy, and thence to St. Andrews in 908. One of the lay abbots at Dunkeld married a daughter of Malcolm II., and through the influence of their descendants the religious order in Scotland was changed. Emerging as great secular chiefs, these lay abbots weakened, if they did not destroy, the ecclesiastical foundation. The bishopric was revived by Alexander I in 1107, and prior to the thirteenth century was not confined to Atholl, but extended to the western sea, and included the districts stretching along its shores from the Firth of Clyde to Lochbroom, and forming the province of Argyll.[94] The western part was separated about 1200, and formed into a new bishopric, termed first that of Argyll, and afterward that of Lismore.[95] Cormac, the Culdee abbot, was the first bishop under the new order, and among his successors may be mentioned Bishop Sinclair (1312-1338), the friend of Bruce, and a "man of courage, the champion of the Church, and the brave defender of the constitution of the kingdom";[96] Bishop Lauder (1452-1476), who filled the see "with unfading honour,"[97] and built a bridge across the Tay, as well as adorned the cathedral; George Brown (1485-1514), who divided the see into four deaneries, procured Gaelic preachers,[98] promoted clerical efficiency, enlarged the palace at Dunkeld, and built the castle of Cluny;[99] Gavin Douglas (1516-1522), "a noble, learned, worthy bishop,"[100] who translated the Æneid into Scots verse, and thus

in a barbarous age,
Gave to rude Scotland Virgil's page.

The diocese had four deaneries: (1) Atholl and Drumalbane, with 47 parishes; (2) Angus, with 5; (3) Fife, Fotherick, and Stratherne, with 7; (4) South Forth, with 7.[101]

Canon Myln's quaint Lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld professes to give an account of the building of the cathedral, and it appears that the existing structure is chiefly of the fifteenth century.[102] It consists of an aisleless choir, a nave with two aisles, a north-west tower, and a chapter-house to the north of the choir. It appears that the different parts of the structure were begun at the dates given by Abbot Myln, but were not completed until some time afterwards.[103] All are Third Pointed in style except the choir, which retains some scanty portions of First Pointed work. The following are given as the approximate dates of the original construction: choir (1318-1400); nave (1406-1465); chapter-house (1457-1465); tower (1469-1501).

The episcopal palace was a little south-west of the cathedral, which contained many valuable ornaments and vessels, a painted reredos, and in its great tower two large bells, named St. George and St. Colm (Columba). At the Reformation in 1560, the cathedral suffered the common fate of most of such structures, although Argyll and Ruthven, in requiring the lairds of Airntully and Kinvaid "to purge the kirk of all kinds of monuments of idolatry," requested them also "to tak good heid that neither the desks, windocks, nor doors be onyways hurt or broken, either glassin work or iron work." The closing injunction was not observed, and the roofs were also demolished. In 1600 the choir was re-roofed, and is the present parish church. But the ruins still speak of the former grandeur of this old church-town, and perhaps a like day may yet dawn for Dunkeld, as has been seen at Dunblane.

[94] Celtic Scotland, vol. ii. p. 405.
[95] Ibid. p. 408.
[96] Myln's Lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld, p. 38.
[97] Ibid. p. 44.
[98] Myln's Lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld, p. 46.
[99] Ibid. p. 56.
[100] Ibid. p. 66.
[101] Scoti-Monasticon, pp. 216, 217.
[102] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 31.
[103] Ibid. p. 47.

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