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Banffshire
Chapter 17. Architecture—(a) Ecclesiastical


Banffshire cannot claim to possess any ancient abbey or cathedral—not even such stately ruins as Elgin. Recent days have seen churches erected of no mean architectural dignity; and the county still contains relics of interesting old church foundations.

In very early times St Moluag of Lismore founded an ecclesiastical community at Mortlach. Its history is obscure till the eleventh century. Then we hear of a battle fought in 1010 between the Scots under Malcolm and the Danes. In gratitude for his victory Malcolm added three spear-lengths to the church. Later in the century, the monastic' foundation was made a bishopric by Malcolm Canmore, and the abbot became bishop. The first recorded bishop was Beathan, who was succeeded by Donert, Cormac, and Nectan. In David I's reign the see was transferred to Aberdeen. The town and monastery of Mortlach with five churches and the dependent monastery of Cloveth (Cabrach) formed part of the revenues of the bishopric of Aberdeen. The old building at Mortlach is now the parish church and its walls, though some nine centuries old as is believed, are still strong and safe. The building has during the last hundred years been enlarged and improved. The interior is of a singularly fine appearance, with interesting carved slabs and various monuments.

The ruins of the old church of Gamrie represent one of the oldest buildings in the county.- Its tutelar saint was St John the Evangelist, and the date of its erection is given as 1004. It ceased to be used in 1830.

The cruciform parish church of Cullen has had a long history. The main part of the existing building was erected -in 1543, according to a charter in Cullen House, which changed the previou&, chapel into a collegiate church for

a provost, six prebends and two singing boys. A splendid example of an aumbry, with an appropriate inscription from the Vulgate, graces the north-east wall and alongside is a magnificent monument to the memory of Alexander Ogilvy of Findlater, the founder of the Collegiate Church; the monument has been described as one of the finest Gothic designs in the North of Scotland. Among other monuments is one to the memory of James, Earl of Findlater and Sea-field, Chancellor of Scotland at tie Union. The Sea field gallery is a piece of rare workmanship, and was erected three centuries ago when the family removed from Find-later to Cullen House.

The old church of Deskford, used for service till 1872, contains what some consider to be the. finest "Sacrament House" in Scotland. It is of pre-Reformation date, an inscription bearing that it was provided by Alexander Ogilvy and Elizabeth Gordon, his spouse, in 1551. The aumbry is of carved freestone, about eight feet high. Below two angels, holding a monstrance, there is a small doorway to a chamber in the wall" with a recess on either hand. At the sides and top of the doorway there is a vine branch with bunches of grapes. Across the top are the words "Os meum es et Caro mea," and on the sill "Ego sum panis vivus qui de celo descendi si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane vivet in eternum. Johan sexto et cetera."


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