Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Exploring the ruins of Elgin Cathedral

I've another guess what it is photo for you - barrels, I wonder why they've got lights on them??

Today was the last day of my holiday, so even though it was a bit miserable weather wise we headed out exploring, ending up at Elgin Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the early 1200's, being alternatively damaged and added to over hundreds of years until it stopped being used as a place of worship during the Protestant Reformation of 1560.

Even though only the shell of a once mighty cathedral remains, you can still see remnants of what an impressive building this must have been - intricate stone carving still visible despite being weathered by time.

Looking towards the choir and presbytery - you can see how big the building was by the width of the remains.

Look, a graveyard surrounds the ruins - how fabulous.

This a display in the base of one of the towers. The effigy of Bishop Archibald was discovered in 1936 - he was the Bishop of Elgin from 1253 to 1298. The display is really interesting, as with the aid of traces of paint that were found on the effigy, they've created a light show that shows what it would have looked like when it was first made, and then it gradually ages as the screen tells you what is happening to the cathedral - very clever. Right at the end of the presentation the effigy winks at you, which even though I knew was due to the lights, it was still a little unnerving.

Door that leads into the Bishop display - I love the large, intricate hinges.

We then started the climb up the tower and this was about half way up, looking over the cathedral ruins.

At various points up the tower there are displays showing and explaining different carvings that have been rescued from being destroyed by the weather. This first one is a lizard like creature in a ball of leaves.

This man/beast has quite an interesting tongue.

This is a depiction of the Green Man - the symbol is one that is believed to date from pre christian times but has been used in many religious buildings. The Green Man is thought to represent growth and rebirth, and is often seen around spring, as you can read about in our blog of the Green Man festival (Green Man Festival).

We finally made it to the top of the tower, up many tiny, windy steps, and it was blowing a gale! Great view of the ruins and of part of the town, though we didn't stay there too long as I think my beloved was a little nervous of how high up we were.

More beautiful carving exhibitions on our way back down - love the intricacies of these roses.

A carved stone bishop (sorry that it's a bit blurry, the wind was blowing my phone around) and another figure which was probably a priest, with my beloved providing the head.

In the transepts there are some beautifully preserved tombs that must have been amazing when they were in their original condition.

Looking across the lovely graveyard - there were lots of the table like tombs throughout.

A knights effigy on top of a tomb with a headless lion at his feet.

I love all the symbology that you see on ancient tombs. This one has several, with the hourglass and the fabulous skull and crossbones being my favourite.

I took a picture of this tomb for two reasons. Firstly because this lady had twelve children and lived to seventy eight years old, which in the 1700's was quite amazing. The second reason is because the lion on the tomb looks very, very grumpy.

This is the tomb of Bishop John Winchester, who died in 1460.

More great symbology - the skull and crossbones was definitely the most popular with people in the years that these tombs were used.

This is the ceiling of the octagonal Chapter House, which is one of the best preserved bits of the cathedral. There are lots of great carvings around the windows and on the ceiling, many different faces and creatures.

The outside of the Chapter House.

This Pictish stone slab was found in the centre of Elgin in the 1800's and is thought to date from the 800's. One side has Pictish symbols and scenes of a hunt, and on the other side is a Christian Cross.

Loved this tomb marker - unusual shape, great skull and crossbones, and the hourglass has got wings. Also, note the skeleton along the bottom edge - fabulous piece of carving (yes, I know I'm weird).

Looking back towards the west front of the cathedral - we were up on top of the tower on the right.

Selfie in the rain - yes, it was now raining, which if you look closely you can see evidence of on Ken's glasses.

Now it was time to explore the wonderful graveyard that surrounds the ruins - how perfect, walking around in the rain looking at old graves (yes, we've moved onto crazy now).

We loved how the moss has outlined these two headstones, especially the one on the left where the moss has found its way into all the letters so it almost looks like it was meant to be.

 Side on view of the ruins.

Fabulous gate on a wall that neighbours the cathedral.

This was a starkly white headstone in amongst all the grey ones. One of the surnames is also the same as Ken's ancestors, and as there were also several with my ancestors surnames we seem to be getting closer to finding a link, which would be so cool. I'd love to find out that hundreds of years ago our families had a connection and now we do again.

Interesting draped cloth carving at the top of this headstone.

Back to the guess the picture. Look what we spotted as we were driving out of Elgin. We backtracked and found it at the Glen Moray distillery - a Christmas Tree made out of whiskey barrels. How fabulous. 

And alongside the tree, Rudolph made out of barrels as well. I love it when people get into the spirit of Christmas in a fun way.

There you have it, the last day of my holiday and I think we had a great day of fun. Until next time, be good, stay safe, and do something nice for yourself this week.

Pamela & Ken


  1. I wonder if the skull and crossbones were more than just artsy. Maybe the people who were buried there died of something very contagious. Possibly a warning against digging them up???

    As you said, the carving in the stone was incredible.

    Thanks for sharing your visit!

    1. I wonder?? Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for stopping by.