St Magnus Cathedral: Everything you need to know

Every day throughout Advent, we'll be introducing a different cathedral from around the UK and occasionally beyond

Published: December 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Denomination: Church of Scotland


Building began: 1137

About the cathedral:

Dedicated to St Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint, the rugged 880-year-old St Magnus Cathedral stands proudly in the centre of the northern archipelago’s capital, Kirkwall. The heavy-set, narrow cathedral was built from two types of local sandstone – red sandstone quarried just north of Kirkwall, and a yellow variety sourced from the island of Eday, 15 miles north of the Orkney mainland. Work began on the cathedral in the early 12th century using stonemasons that had previously worked on Durham Cathedral, and was completed some 200 years later. St Magnus Cathedral was spared the ravages of the Reformation thanks to its unique status as a royal burgh, granted by King James III of Scotland in 1486.

Did you know?

St Magnus Cathedral has a dungeon – the only cathedral in the British Isles with one. Known as Marwick’s Hole, the dungeon is sandwiched between the south wall of the choir and south transept chapel, and cathedral records suggest that men and women were still thrown inside well into the 18th century.


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