Kirks throughout the ages

St Andrews Cathedral and the church of St Regulus

St Andrews cathedral ruins_530x721

St Andrews Cathedral and the church of St Regulus
Engraving: from 'The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland', R.W. Billings (1845)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

In the Middle Ages, St Andrews was the chief religious site in Scotland. Pilgrims flocked to see the precious bones, relics of Scotland’s patron saint housed in the church of St Regulus, next to the cathedral. Yet, despite this reverence, the buildings did not escape the Reformation’s destruction. Abandoned after 1560, they soon became a quarry, their ancient stones used by the locals for their houses.

Billings concentrates on the strange collection of fragments that survive: the cathedral’s end walls, their pinnacles somehow still pointing upwards; the chunky remains of the church of St Regulus in the foreground; and the solid bulk of the still lofty tower. These ruins hint at the buildings’ long construction history. For example, marching up the tower wall are three triangles. Known as raggles, these record the changing roof heights of many centuries.

All around are scattered further fragments, the many tombs of St Andrews citizens. Death and decay dominate. Even the vegetation on the walls is ominous, slowly consuming the walls. Beyond, however, there are signs of life: on the edge of the churchyard, a solitary chimney smokes.


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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