Saturday, December 8, 2012

Island Paradise: St. Magnus Cathedral Interior

One of the measures of a "city" by British standards is that cities contain cathedrals. (For the record, Aberdeen's is the Cathedral Church of St. Machar, which was the site of my first attempt at geocaching.) The most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen - and I've seen quite a few of them - is St. Magnus Cathedral in the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall. On my second full day in Orkney, I went into Kirkwall. I had several errands to run: buying an Orcadian sweater (unfortunately, knitted in Orkney, but not from Orcadian wool - I still love it!) from a shop on Victoria Street, grabbing a Giddy Limit 2013 calendar from the Orcadian bookshop, and of course, a trip back to St. Magnus Cathedral.

St. Magnus is constructed from gorgeous red sandstone, and contains many, many epitaphs from the kirkyard outside. A lot of them have the skull and crossed bones icon visible in the attached picture. There are also numerous other items from Orcadian history, plus the crypts of William Balfour Baikie and Dr. John Rae. (I actually remember Captain John telling me the story of Dr. John Rae back in 2004 when he took me there during our grand tour of Orkney.) There's a memorial to the men lost in the 1939 sinking of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow, which contains the ship's bell. Originally erected in 1137, the cathedral is named after St. Magnus of Orkney, whose life, martyrdom, and legacy are recounted in chapters 39 through 60 of the Orkneyinga Saga. He's also the subject of the novel Magnus by Orcadian author George Mackay Brown, and let me tell you, the book shops in Orkney are quite fond of George Mackay Brown.

If you take the tour on Tuesday or Thursday, you'll find yourself led up into the into the central bell tower. In addition to seeing the bell apparatus and some of the older bits of the cathedral that have since been shored up or added to to preserve the structure, you'll get to see one of the original glass windows (pictured) dating back to the cathedral's early days. My tour was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Orkney. Unfortunately, I took sixty pictures of the St. Magnus Cathedral interior alone, which is too many pictures even for one of my blog posts. Hopefully I've given some of you the motivation to go check it out for yourselves! Oh, and for anyone who's interested, I got a grid for the front steps of the cathedral: 30V VA 98425 38585.

Remember a few weeks ago, when I posted a Mumford & Sons video in The Songs That Remind You 3? Well, Gray 3 told me that when Mumford & Sons performed in Orkney, they didn't want to perform in a sports venue, so they actually performed in St. Magnus Cathedral. I can think of a few bands that I'd love to see perform there, so I have no doubt that it was a truly amazing night for everyone in attendance.

Coming up later in the Island Paradise series, I'll post some day and night pictures of the St. Magnus Cathedral exterior, because it's every bit as gorgeous as the interior. There are reasons why it's my favorite cathedral of all time.

Once I'd finished with my missions for Kirkwall, it was off to Wideford Hill.

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