History

Brechin owes its origins to the medieval Cathedral, the oldest building in the Burgh, and the Celtic monastery which preceded it.

Recent research points to a somewhat earlier date to the Cathedral’s foundations in that a Pictish hermit called Dubhoc or Duthoc seems to have had an anchorite cell on or near the current site around the late 6th or early 7th centuries. Dubhoc may have followed on from part of Ninian’s mission to the Picts in the 5th century. Though it is possible that soldiers who were Christian believers may have been part of a Roman army that encamped in the area much earlier.

Brechin-Cathedral-and-Round-Tower

Brechin Cathedral & Round Tower

By the mid-late 9th century the Culdees, a reforming Church movement from Ireland, had almost certainly arrived in the area. The Culdees may have been brought into the Pictish Church by King Kenneth MacAlpin (810-58) in an attempt to modernise its practices.

The first recorded reference to a church in Brechin is King Kenneth II of Scotland (971-995) giving ‘the great city (ie. monastery) of Brechin to the Lord’, endowing the monastic community with lands and having a church built. Thus by the 10th century a sizeable and significant ecclesiastical establishment was already extant.

Brechin was the mother church of the provinces of Angus and Mearns, a centre from which the Culdee monks went out to minister to the local communities. The Cathedral houses an important collection of early medieval sculpture created for this early monastic community. The St Mary’s Stone, dug up in a garden near the Cathedral in the 18th century, is one of very few Scottish sculptures of early date with a Latin inscription. It shows St Mary and the infant Christ surrounded by figures of the Evangelists. The extraordinary hogback, of unique form, found re-used in the Cathedral graveyard, has ornament in the Norse Ringerike style. Both these stones may be 11th century in date, as is the Round Tower, whose masonry, and elaborately carved doorway, are among the finest of any of this class of monument.

Door to Brechin Cathedral Round Tower

Door to Brechin Cathedral Round Tower

The cathedral also has some later sculpture, including several medieval grave slabs and a Romanesque font.

The present cathedral had its origin in the founding of the Diocese of Brechin by the appointment of Bishop Samson by King David I in the mid 12th century. A new church or alterations in the Norman style were made to an existing church and it was not until from about 1225 that the Culdees and their Prior were replaced by a chapter of Canons and a small Cathedral built in the Gothic style. This, the present building, was completed over the next few centuries with the major work done in the 13th and 14th centuries. After the reformation the building was neglected but it is generally agreed that even greater damage was done during the reconstruction of 1806. At this time the chancel, being unused, had fallen into disrepair and side chapels were demolished. A ceiling was put in the nave and galleries formed to house more worshipers. This latter problem was resolved when the building was restored to almost its original state (1900-1902).

The cathedral was originally dedicated to the Holy Trinity and this is commemorated in the Coat of Arms of the town which has a gold shield with three red rays converging at a point near the base.

Brechin Cathedral is a congregation of the Church of Scotland, the national Church, which is Presbyterian in government.

Our minister, Rev. Roderick J Grahame is currently working on a new history of the Cathedral which is due for publication in 2017, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Society of Friends.

Comments are closed.