Marking the Past: St Magnus Cathedral Project

A project gets underway tonight, Tuesday 22nd of January , to explore and record the graffiti left on the walls of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney over the centuries.

st magnus cathedral in winter

At the launch at 7pm in the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall the team will discuss the background to the project and how to get involved as a volunteer. Training will then be provided for those who wish to participate in 3 workshops on 26th of January, 5th of February and the  9th of February.  The project has been enabled by a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Hundreds of marks have been informally recorded but this will be the first time an extensive record has been made.

The aims of the project are to….

  • train a team of community archaeologists who will be sufficiently skilled and confident to undertake, under supervision, detailed building surveys
  • create a publication which outlines the key findings, places the graffiti in the cathedral within its historical context and adds to the knowledge of this unique building and the people who have used it
  • create an online resource which will be freely available to all, showing the photographs and the records of the project
  • The volunteers will be trained by archaeologists from the UHI Archaeology Institute to recognise and record the marks and enter them into the record – the first time that these important social marks have been recorded officially.

Dr Antonia Thomas, UHI Archaeology Institute lecturer and project coordinator said:

“Over more than 870 years, St Magnus Cathedral has played host to countless masons, pilgrims and tourists, many of whom have left their mark in graffiti and other carvings. This exciting project gives us the opportunity to examine several centuries of mark-making, and find out more about the social history of this special building “

st magnus cathedral interior martin lairdThe project which will examine marks made on both the inside and outside of the iconic St Magnus Cathedral will see members of the community working with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and  Orkney Archaeology Society

Martin Carruthers, Orkney Archaeology Society Chairman said:

“This is a really exciting project and one that we are delighted to be running. St Magnus Cathedral is such an important building for Orkney folk, and we are looking forward to working with the community to learn more about the people who have made their marks here since it was founded in 1137.”


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