Mar. 18th, 2012

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It's another glorious day, and instead of riding my bicycle, I'm doomed to wander the east end of Glasgow helping J choose a car.  Ah, let's hope he gets the car of his choice today, or else I shall go completely bonkers!!

So let's go to Saint Andrews, shall we?  I've been promising this for a while, so it's about time I got on with it.  And it's only a matter of weeks before I finally get to Carcassone...

Sporting types (and fans of Donald Trump) may beg to differ, but the heart of Saint Andrews must surely be its cathedral.  For centuries, the town lay at the ecclesiastical heart of Scotland, housing its spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Saint Andrews, who as head of the church in Scotland, was required to anoint the kings and queens of Scotland at their coronation.  Its other famous institution, the University, which celebrates its 600th anniversary this year, was also founded under the auspices of the cathedral.

The cathedral precinct is still largely intact, but the remains of the cathedral itself, once the largest church ever built in Scotland, and its ancillary buildings, are now sadly fragmented.  On the surface, these fragments are confusing.  If you stand at one side of the precinct, reused as a modern graveyard, you see a gable wall standing in proud isolation, and another tall tower, which looks oddly modernistic or perhaps Italianate in comparison to the gothic lines of the gable:-

As usual, the plan and layout of Saint Andrews represents centuries of rebuilding and development, but because the surviving structures are so incomplete, it's hard to visualise these structures as they would have been in their original splendour.  The first secret to understanding the site is to understand that there are in fact two churches standing here: the cathedral church of Saint Andrews itself, and an earlier church dedicated to Saint Rule.  To add to the confusion, the church of Saint Andrews itself has been substantially rebuilt over the centuries.

I'll dedicate a post specifically to Saint Rule's church next week - or what remains of it: it's a very lovely building and worth exploring in detail.  Built in the reign of David I, it has its origins in the early twelfth century, or perhaps even the late eleventh century, and it would originally have featured a tower-nave and a chancel to the east.  It was subsequently extended, perhaps at the point when a house of Augustinian canons was established on the site (the existing community of Culdees were ultimately decanted outwith the precinct to a little church, now completely flattened, which lies on a headland just beyond the wall).

Ultimately it was realised, once Saint Andrews was recognised as the spiritual heart of Scotland, that the existing church did not reflect the supremacy of the site.  A new, larger church was built, though still at an early date in the mid-twelfth century. But rather than pillaging Saint Rules for building materials, much of the original structure was retained, with the tower still equipped for use as a bell-tower.


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