Inverness, Highlands – St Andrew’s Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral, Serving the Highlands – says the tag line. Grid ref – BB123456 – website. Interesting that the guidebook gives their social media links, not the website. It is the Episcopal Cathedral, as the Church of Scotland doesn’t do things like bishops and Cathedrals (“they haven’t got bishops to show them the way” Michael Flanders and Donald Swann A Song of Patriotic Prejudice) – The Provost of the Cathedral is also the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

The Cathedral stands west of the river in an imposing position, and doesn’t align to the usual east/west position. Built of pink sandstone from Conon near Dingwall, with a roof of Westmorland slate.

In 1851 Robert Eden was elected bishop. He was a parish priest in Essex, and had to learn very quickly that the Episcopal Church in Scotland was a very different beast from the Church of England. The Reformation in Scotland was a far greater upheaval than that in England. John Knox lit the fire in 1559, and in 1560 the Scots Parliament abolished Papal authority, forbade the Latin Mass, and adopted a reformed Confession of Faith. For more than a century Episcopalian and Presbyterian factions struggled for dominance. In 1688 James VII/II fled to France, and most Episcopalians were unable to swear allegiance to his daughter Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. The Established Church adopted a Presbyterian Order, and the Scottish Episcopal Church came into separate existence. After the 1715 Jacobite Rising, more stringent laws were enacted against Episcopalian clergy, and after the failure of the 1745 rebellion, the government sought to wipe it out. By the time Eden was elected a century later, the vote was taken by 7 clergy.

Eden was a powerful preacher, and by 1866 there was enough to energy to start to build a Cathedral. The architect was a young man from the congregation, Alexander Ross, but his original plans had to be cut back due to limited funds. The foundation stone was laid on 17 October 1866 by Dr Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury, the first official act in Scotland by an English Primate since the establishment of Presbyterianism. It was opened on 1 September 1869 and the inaugural sermon was preached by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce – the one who is remembered for his debate with Charles Darwin. It cost £15,106, and on opening there was a debt still owing of £6,835. A building cannot be consecrated while there is a debt, so it was 1874 before it was consecrated – in the presence of the Bishop of Derry (William Alexander, the husband of Mrs C.F. Alexander “All things bright and beautiful”) and the Bishop of Bombay. There must be a tale to tell about the Bishop of Bombay’s journeying from Bombay to Inverness! This plaque remembers the Architect.

We entered the cathedral through the side door with the disabled ramp, and were greeted with the stark reality of life in the C21.

On a more cheerful note we were also greeted with a banner celebrating the churches of the huge diocese.

We walked down to the “west” end, and said hello to the Angel font. This was gift, in 1871, of Colonel and Mrs Learmouth of Dean (near Edinburgh). It was copied by James Redfern from Thorvaldsen’s kneeling angel font in Copenhagen, which Bishop Eden saw on his journey to Russia in 1866. There is one significant difference – this font has the face of Mrs Learmouth.

The view from the west end is quite impressive, we continued up the north aisle, past some candle stations with Russian icons. Some of these date to the Bishop’s visit in 1866 – he wet to visit the Anglican communion in St Petersburg, and make links with the Russian Orthodox church. There were a lot of visitors in the Cathedral today, and the prayer stations were being well used.

We moved into the Lady Chapel, with this memorial tablet to Bishop William Hay, the last established Bishop of Moray. He was deprived of his living of St Giles, Elgin, for refusing to read out the proclamation of William and Mary as joint sovereigns, and he retired to Inverness.

The altar is by Angus Ross of Aberfeldy, and I like this Christ – no mention of his maker, and I do think the position of the CCTV is interesting (Jesus is watching you).

The pulpit is of Caen stone and Irish marble, was carved by local sculptors, and shows St Andrew, the Good Shepherd, and John the Baptist.

The High Altar is wonderfully Victorian, and if you look west through the screen and over the Nave altar, the “west” window shows Christ in Majesty. It is a very colourful windows and works well – because of the alignment of the Cathedral it never receives direct sunlight.

Most of the stained glass is by John Hardman and Co of Birmingham, and forms a complete scheme. Here are some examples – note the “pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons” in the Candlemas window.

There is some lovely embroidery work in this Cathedral – I loved the otters.

A reminder that real people sit in our pews – and we ended our visit in the café in the Church Hall, being looked after by lovely members of the congregation. Thank you!


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