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St Magnus' Cathedral


(Kirkwall Cathedral)

The Cathedral of St. Magnus, located in Kirkwall on the Island of Orkney, is the most northerly and one of the smallest cathedrals in Britain. Built in the Romanesque style, work began in 1137, following a vow made by Earl Rognvald, when the islands were still ruled by Norway. It is one of the finest examples of polychrome stone-work, with red and yellow locally-quarried sandstone used together in the doorways.

The cathedral is dedicated to Magnus, Earl of Orkney, who was canonised in 1135. Magnus was a gentle and kindly man, who ruled Orkney along with his cousin Haakon. Haakon executed Magnus, who was buried on Birsay but later reburied in the walls of the cathedral.

Despite its small size, the height of the roof gives it a grand and dignified interior. Inside are a number of interesting tomb-stones moved inside from the graveyard, a memorial to the men who died when the HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed and sunk in Scapa Flow in 1939 and the Gothic tomb of Arctic explorer John Rae (1813-93). Stained glass includes work by Douglas Strachan (1875 - 1950). Unusually the cathedral includes a dungeon.


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