Kirks throughout the ages


Detail of St. Andrews

Detail of St Andrew's Cathedral and St Regulus Church Engraving: from 'The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland', R.W. Billings (1845) Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

The history of the Scottish Episcopalian Church is very different to the Church of England. Far poorer in the Middle Ages, Scottish cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches were generally plainer and smaller than their English counterparts. What’s more, the Reformation was far more extreme in Scotland, the destruction of Scottish Medieval buildings more thorough. The Scottish Calvinists not only rejected ornaments in places of worship, but the churches themselves. Few churches escaped their attention.

For the Calvinists the Word – the Bible - rather than ceremony was important. Elaborate buildings, divided up by ritual, were no longer necessary. Thus, since the Reformation, the model Scottish church has been the plain Presbyterian box, centred on the pulpit, not the altar. Even when Medieval ecclesiastical architecture became fashionable again in the Victorian period, their architecture changed little. Great auditoriums were built clothed in Gothic walls and windows. Their plans, however, remained based on sight and sound, not Medieval mystery.

Top of page