St Andrew's Cathedral :: Shared Description
Scotlandís largest and most magnificent medieval church, the cathedral was the seat of Scotlandís leading bishops (and from 1472 archbishops) from its foundation in 1158 until it fell into disuse after the Reformation. It occupied a site which had been used for worship since the 8th century, when the relics of St Andrew, Scotlandís patron saint, are said to have been brought here.
The cathedral was begun in 1160Ė2. Work continued over the next 150 years, interrupted by a storm in 1272 which blew down the west front, and the first War of Independence against England (1296Ė1307). The cathedral was eventually dedicated in 1318, in the presence of King Robert I, by which date it was by far the largest church in Scotland.
In 1559, John Knox preached a fiery sermon in St Andrews parish church, and the cathedral was Ďcleansedí as a result. In 1561 it was abandoned and replaced as the chief place of worship by the parish church. After that, the former headquarters of the Scottish Church was left to fall into ruin. About the end of the sixteenth century the central tower apparently gave way, carrying with it the north wall. Afterwards large portions of the ruins were taken away for building purposes, and nothing was done to preserve them until 1826.
It is now a ruined monument in the custody of Historic Scotland. Substantial fragments survive, including the east gable of the presbytery, where the relics of St Andrew were held in veneration, the south wall of the nave, and the majestic west front. The cloister to the south retains its ruined chapter house and stone-vaulted undercrofts. The ruins indicate the great size of the building at 350 feet (over 100 metres) long. The cathedral buildings are surrounded by a graveyard, and encircled by the most complete and imposing monastic enclosure walls in Scotland. Even in its ruinous state, the cathedral remains a prominent landmark, the focus of the three medieval streets of St Andrews, and highly visible from the sea.
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Created: Thu, 3 Nov 2011, Updated: Fri, 4 Nov 2011
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