Kirks throughout the ages

Interior of Presbyterian church, Mochrum

Interiror Mockrum, Wigtown_530x383

Interior of Presbyterian church, Mochrum
Photograph: E. Smith (unknown date)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection

After the Reformation, ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland was transformed. Now the Bible – the Word – was the centre of worship. The Mass – the bread and wine – lost its importance, so too the priest, who used to perform the miracle of the Mass. Hierarchies disappeared: the people with the Elders now led worship. Obviously, churches’ plans and decoration had to respond to this.

This interior photo of Mockrum Presbyterian Church illustrates these changes well.  A late Georgian building, dating from 1794, in this plain interior function supersedes aesthetics. Simple, arched windows, with clear glazing, ensure good lighting. The ceiling is undecorated, and the balconies cut across the windows, ignoring the architecture. What happens inside is more important than architectural propriety.

Most importantly, the pulpit dominates. Set on the south wall, between the two windows, it is higher than the altar table set before it. At the top is a sounding board to improve acoustics. The seating might resemble a theatre, but any drama is concentrated here alone, Bible readings and sermons the only entertainment permitted.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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