Monday, 19 November 2012

Brechin Cathedral and a feast of stained glass

It was by complete chance that I went into Brechin Cathedral a few weeks ago. I was going elsewhere, had misread the opening hours and this was en route. The term cathedral for this church is purely historical. David I appointed a bishop here in the middle of the 12th century, but like St Giles in Edinburgh, the church has since come under the care of the Church of Scotland, who do not have bishops. A cathedral being the seat of a bishop, this is, strictly speaking, not one.

It's also one of the smallest churches that you're ever likely to see called a cathedral, but by gum, they haven't half tried to make up for it in quantity and quality of stained glass.

The most prominent artist amongst the windows is William Wilson who made 16 windows for the cathedral between 1952 and 1961. The next five pictures are all by him.

This window was designed by Henry Dearle from William Morris' company. 

The angels above the window though are thought to have been the work of none other than Edward Burne-Jones.

Around the altar are 14 windows by Henry Holiday  (he has already appeared in a recent blog here). The next 7 pictures are from the 10 windows on either side of the Altar featuring scenes from the life of Christ.

This window from 1932 is by Herbert Henry  (I'm thinking that whoever was in charge of buying windows for this church had a deep love of alliteration). Looking at the style of the figures in the window, it's not surprising to find that Herbert Henry was highly regarded by William Wilson.

Looking up, we return to Mr Wilson again for high in the church are a series of small windows featuring Scottish saints (or at least saints with a strong Scottish connection). St Machar was an Irish saint who was active in Scotland in the 6th century (though most of what we know about him comes from a book of almost a thousand years later). There is a line of thought that suggests that Saint Machar and Saint Mungo are one and the same person. If this is so then he's managed to get two windows because St Mungo has a window too.

Four more of the windows from the same series - featuring Saint Cuthbert, Saint Andrew, Saint Margaret and Saint Ninian.

The largest window by William Wilson in the church is the Great West Window, unveiled in 1958.

Though I found Brechin Cathedral mainy interesting for its glass, it would be wrong to dash off now without mentioning the round tower outside. It is one of only two of it's type in Scotland, the other being in Abernethy. There are many example of this type of tower in Ireland and the seem to date from 950 to 1180 AD - this one is thought to be around 1100 AD.

This door in the tower is the most detailed part and features Christ at the top with a saint on each side and crouching beasts in the bottom corners.

I liked the dragon on top of the church - it's got a feel of one of the creatures on the Pictish stones that appear in the area.


The Glebe Blog said...

I've a feeling you're on a mission Sandy. This post got me wondering if there was anyone else interested in Stained Glass so I googled 'Stained Glass Blogger'. Looks like you have a few kindred spirits out there.

Sandy's witterings said...

Stained glass is certainly something I like to look at Jim, and takes in a fair percentage of my touristing time - and there's so much of it.
More in a few blogs time but plenty other things first.

Pam and Wayne said...

Found you today through a link you left at Sinbad and I's blog about the cairns. Now I have someone else's adventures to start reading! Great cathedrals and museum pieces and just enough background to go along. We're considering a visit to England and Ireland for an anniversary celebration in two years but I'm concerned November would be a bad time weather wise. I wouldn't want my enjoyment of all those cathedrals and castles to blunted by freezing, howling wind. Any thoughts?

Sandy's witterings said...

Welcome Pam and Wayne. Glad you enjoyed your visit.
British weather is famously unpredictable - what else would we talk about! The BBC has given up trying to predict it past a week into the future and even then it's often wrong. Here's London for next week - looks chilly and dry except for Sunday (that's what a long lie, the British museum and a trip to the pub are for)
You can search the rest of the country for weather from the same place. November is going to be chilly or wet and maybe both (pretty much like out summer this year). It's amazing what a jersey and good coat will keep out.

Pam and Wayne said...

Thanks for the weather link, we'll see if it looks reasonable!

Poppy (aka Val) said...

Another subject I love :) Stained glass - yes :) I really love the Byrne Jones ones, but they are all amazing, as is that wonderful tower!
Looks like I really must get up to your neck of the woods some time...:)

Sandy's witterings said...

The cathedral in Birmingham and that church down by the Bullring are the places for Burne-Jones windows if you're ever passing that way Val.

TomB said...

Thanks for this blog. It helped me answer several questions I had on Brechin's windows