Grandtully, Perthshire – St Mary’s

We are en route to Orkney. On Friday 6 July we are heading up the A9, and following a prefab house on a lorry – worse than a caravan. A few miles north of Dunkeld we turned left onto the B898, and then the A827. St Mary’s church, Grandtully is an Historic Scotland property (unstaffed, free access) and is sign posted off the main road at NN 887556. Plenty of parking, and a short walk to the church.

This is one of those churches where you open the door and go wow.

A church here is first mentioned in papal letters to the bishops of Moray around 1250 – you can imagine a Vatican diplomat wondering where this place was. The church as we see it today dates to 1533 when Alexander Stewart, of nearby Grandtully Castle, granted lands to St Andrew’s Cathedral in exchange for a priest to take charge here. I wonder how much land equals one priest. In about 1636 Sir William Stewart and his wife Dame Agnes Moncrieffe modified the building. The church was extended to the west and the ceiling was installed. There does not seem to be a record of who the painter was – I assume it is only one painter – nor whether it was painted in situ, or painted and then put up. There is only one other surviving ceiling from this time, at Largs. A new parish church was built in 1806, and this one went out of use in 1892. Thank goodness it was saved and is cared for.

The central panel depicts the Last Judgement. “Framed by a classical doorway, a dying man is lying on his canopied bed; beside him, his grieving wife is in attendance while the skeleton figure of Death aims his dart. On clouds above the deathbed, two angels are blowing their trumpets summoning the corpses to the Resurrection; this we see taking place on the right hand side of the panel as they rise from their graves up into the heavens.”

There are 28 panels, but I am not going to try and list them all. Here are the four Evangelists, Matthew (21), Mark (22), Luke (11) and John (12).

There are various heraldic devices – including the Duke of Lennox, the Earl of Atholl, Sir William Stewart and Dame Agnes Moncrieff.

This one (panel 26 in case you’re wondering) could be Humility – she has a couple of books, “Learn of me for I am lovely and humble”, and this one (2) could be “Hope”.

Around it all, are wonderful flowers etc.

The views are rather smashing too. If you are driving North, whether you are following a prefab or not, go and see this church.




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2 Responses to Grandtully, Perthshire – St Mary’s

  1. Nancy Padgett says:

    Dear Vicar,

    Trip to Orkney and The church at Grandtully: this church, not very distinguished from the outside, is splendid on the inside. So glad you posted about it.
    Do the records name the first priest ? I’m wondering if Alexander Stewart, “of nearby Grandtully Castle, who granted lands to St Andrew’s Cathedral in exchange for a priest to take charge here” designated the priest. Perhaps a member of his family? Even if just a client, control over the priest appointment would have extended Stewart’s social and political control over the area. This was a common tactic for aristocratic landowners of the Medieval and Renaissance period.

    Also, Where was your starting point for your trip to Orkney?

    • admin says:

      En route from Derby to Orkney. Sorry, I just got the info about the first priest from the Historic Scotland website. In my next life, I’ll need to learn more Scottish history!

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