Culture

St Magnus Cathedral – A Good Thing

By Bernie Bell

St Magnus 5

Photo by Kenny Armet

When Earl Rognvald set about having St. Magnus cathedral built, he can have had no idea how it would become a community cathedral – a people’s cathedral.  It was built  to honour St. Magnus, and became the final resting place for his bones.

It is a cathedral – a place of worship, and has its own Minister – the Reverend Fraser McNaughton – ‘The Rev’ – but….it belongs to the Burgh of Kirkwall, and so, the people of Orkney. Religious services are held there – weddings, funerals – but it also hosts many other events.

Flower Festival

Photo F Grahame

There is an Annual Flower Festival, by Kirkwall Flower Arrangement Club.

A few years ago, a labyrinth was laid out in the nave and folk could go and walk it as a meditative exercise, or just because they felt like it!

Religions have their root in a common spirituality, meditation connects with our inner self, or spirit.

Presently, the Rognvald Sails are there, which commentate the journey of Earl Rognvald to The Holy Land

See also : Kirkwall, Orkney – St Magnus Cathedral, art installation

 There is a traditional Christmas crib.

And a very touching, modest war memorial, in a niche under the plaque listing the names of the fallen.

There are also many kinds of music events held there, both of sacred and secular music. Recently , we attended the Lucy Service ( see ‘comments’ Kirkwall at Christmas ), and on Saturday evening, we went to a concert called ‘Christmas in Song’.

This brought together many local singers in a concert of less traditional Christmas songs, including ‘Funiculi funicula’ which, as visiting Tenor and Conductor Mark Luther pointed out, is nothing to do with Christmas but he just likes singing it!  The audience did, too, joining in enthusiastically with the chorus and the hand-clapping.  The concert was in aid of Orkney Charitable Trust, which was set up in June 2014, with the aim of providing financial help for young people living in Orkney, experiencing times of hardship. The ‘Every Child Deserves a Christmas‘ fund, hopes to make a positive difference for disadvantaged children in Orkney during the Christmas season.

Among those taking part on Saturday, were our own ‘Orkney Rocks!’,  and the sweet, clear voice of Sophie Sullivan – a joy to listen to.

Orkney Rocks

I always like to go to St. Magnus.  If it’s just that I’ve  been in town and need some peace, I go there, sit in a corner, and ….sit.  It got a very soothing atmosphere.  Music events are always something special there, and it was whilst sitting there last night, listening and looking around me, that I fully realised how very, very fortunate we are to have a people’s cathedral, where all these different aspects of life can be expressed in  one place. And not only in one place, but in a place which has such inherent beauty. The red sandstone, glowing in the soft lighting.

And , finally, in St. M’s right now……………..”Oh, Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree.”

Christmas Tree in St Magnus


All photos by B Bell unless otherwise stated.

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