A Vessel Of Light In St. Magnus’

By Bernie Bell

I’d seen pictures of the new porch in St. Magnus’ Cathedral, and was eager to see it for myself. The problem being, that since March 2020 I don’t go indoors where there are un-known people. Then I thought about it and thought that, as long as I paid attention when going through the door, the interior of St. M’s is a big space in which to avoid the potentially diseased populace!

We’ve both had all three jabs, would take care, would wear masks inside the Cathedral.  Decided to go for it – and St. Magnus’ Day/Easter Saturday seemed like a good day to do so!

I thought the old porch was fine – a well-made, well designed structure made of pleasing, warm, honey-coloured wood.  The one thing not so good about it was that you walked through the front door and were faced with a wall of dark wood, with two doors either side.  You’d go through one of the doors, then had to walk round in front of the porch to be able to see down the whole length of the cathedral.

Now – when you stand just inside the main door, you’re in a glass porch  and the reflections and playing with light begins as you can see the window at the other end of the cathedral reflected in the glass – apparently onto the buildings opposite!

Going through the doors of the glass porch you can see  straight down the nave to the wonderful window at the end.  The whole Cathedral is presented to you, straight away…..

Then, walking down the nave and turning back you see the porch, which is a vessel of light……

It holds the light, and its shape echoes the shape of the window above, made of coloured glass and therefore giving multi-coloured light.

It’s all ……just…RIGHT.  I could use words like ‘enchanting’, and it is, but, that sounds a bit airy-fairy – a bit flimsy, and it isn’t flimsy.  It’s part of the Cathedral, which is a very solid place, and yet it’s made of glass, and holds light.

It’s opened up the entrance, and therefore the Cathedral, wonderfully.  The whole building is full of light, and shapes, and shapes enhanced by the light.

It made me very, very happy to be there, on that day.

Thank you to those who care for St. Magnus’ Cathedral, and those who were instrumental in presenting this wonder of light to us, through the ages.


The Orkney News has a short video on its YouTube channel of the new cathedral doors which you can view here:

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4 replies »

  1. Hi Bernie, I’ve just been reading “Ships of Heaven” by Christopher Somerville. (Among other books, he wrote ‘The January Man’, inspired by my brother-in-laws best-known song.) I bought the book mainly for info about Salisbury, Ely, Lincoln and Durham, all of which feature in my “Children from the Sky”, but he also has a chapter about St. Magnus, Kirkwall, which is well worth reading. Cheers, Duncan.

    • Morning Duncan

      Mike has now started reading ‘Children from the Sky’ and he said that it “has the potential to get very,very weird.” And I said – “Yes, it does – get very, very weird”
      As Gerry Jablonski (most excellent musician) once said to me – “Weird is good.”

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