£1m renovation plans for Aberdeen’s ‘William Wallace cathedral’

St Machar's Cathedral set for �1m renovation. Picture: Martyn Gorman
St Machar's Cathedral set for �1m renovation. Picture: Martyn Gorman
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AN iconic Aberdeen cathedral where the left arm of William Wallace is rumoured to be buried could be set for a £1million refit.

Ambitious plans have been revealed to give St Machar’s Cathedral in the city centre an extensive makeover.

Under the proposals the historic church, which dates back to the 12th century, will have its iconic twin towers, roof, seating and stained glass windows all upgraded.

And a new multi-purpose space would be created along with toilet facilities and possibly a cafe.

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The building, which is actually a high kirk and not technically a cathedral any longer, is rumoured to be where Wallace’s left arm ended up after he was hung, drawn and quartered in 1305.

After he was executed for his crimes against King Edward I the pieces of Wallace’s body were sent across the land as a warning over allegiance.

And the myth has persisted over the years that somewhere in the confines of St Machar’s the remains of his left arm is buried.

However, the building also boasts other tourist draws - including its unique heraldic ceiling which is coming up for its 500 year anniversary in a few years.

Minister at the cathedral, Rev Barry Dunsmore, said: “One of the outstanding features of St Machar’s is its unique heraldic ceiling dating from 1520.

“The flat ceiling contains 48 heraldic shields depicting Scotland as a sovereign state with the states of Western Europe united under Pope and Holy Roman Emperor.

“As the ceiling will be 500 years old in 2020 there are plans to celebrate this milestone in the cathedral’s history.

“This led to the repair and development plans being called The 2020 Project.”

Plans are still at a very early stage with numerous hurdles to overcome before the project will start moving forward.

And the cost is likely to mean that grant funding will be needed.

Rev Dunsmore added: “Given that the cathedral is a Category A listed building surrounded by graves and set in a conservation area, there are numerous issues to be dealt with before what is currently a bold vision can become a reality.

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“The cost of the project is not yet known. It will, however, be beyond the means of the congregation alone.

“With this in mind, an application is being made for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Place of Worship scheme.

“The project will also rely on grants from public and charitable bodies and corporate and personal donations.”

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