An Orkney cathedral, which is the most northerly in the UK, has been named among the top 100 in Europe.
The ranking was decided by historian and author Simon Jenkins in his new book, Europe’s 100 Best Cathedrals.
St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall is the only Scottish cathedral to have made the list. It sits alongside the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral and Westmister Abbey as well as famous cathedrals from across the continent.
Mr Jenkins believes that a cathedral is more than a religious building.
He explained: “Europe’s cathedrals are its finest works of art.
“They are testaments to its Christian faith but also to its architecture, engineering and craftmanship. Most cathedrals are grand, no other places of Christian worship remotely equal them in scale.
“They are history and geography, art and science, mind and body in one.”
History of St Magnus Cathedral
Dating back to 1137, St Magnus Cathedral is known as The Light of the North.
It was built with red sandstone and is the only wholly medieval cathedral that still stands in Scotland. All the others have been ruined, rebuilt of extended.
The cathedral was founded by Viking Earl Rognvald as a final resting place to house the relics of his uncle, St Magnus, who was otherwise known as Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney.
Though Fran Hollinrake has been custodian at the cathedral for 11 years, she still learns more about its history every day.
She said: “St Magnus Cathedral is extraordinary in so many ways.
“We are the only church in Scotland which still contains the relics of its original saint, and as if that weren’t enough we have two saints.
“Although it took nearly three hundred years before it was complete, it has stood the test of time very well.”
Ms Hollinrake believes you can feel the history of the cathedral while inside it.
She explained: “Nearly nine centuries of Orkney people have experienced the deepest of emotions within these walls – joy, grief, hope – and I believe that all those feelings have soaked into the walls and become part of the very fabric of the building.
“No wonder it has such a powerful atmosphere.”
Other cathedrals in the list include:
- Paris Notre-Dame
- Strasbourg Cathedral
- Vienna Cathedral
- St Peter’s Basilica
- Barcelona Sagrada Familia
- Moscow Dormition
- Stockholm Cathedral
- Cologne Cathedral
Recognition in parliament
Jim Wallace is the current moderator of the General Assembly.
St Magnus is Lord Wallace’s home church. He said he was proud of its recent accolade: “Whilst we are proud of its history, its spiritual atmosphere today continues to inspire worship, prayer and reflection.”
The recognition the cathedral has received made it to parliament when Orkney MSP Liam McArthur raised it as a motion.
Lord Wallace added: “It is fitting that it has gained the accolade of one of Europe’s best cathedrals, and I am pleased that this has been recognised in the Scottish Parliament.”
The current minister of St Magnus Cathedral, Rev Fraser Macnaughton, was also happy to see it being recognised.
He said: “Across the continent, cathedrals have withstood the ravages of time and history.
“I am so delighted that ‘our’ cathedral, as Orcadians are wont to say, has been included in this new book and that the Scottish Parliament has recognised this accolade in passing the motion of acknowledgment and gratitude.”