Saving the 500 year old Papal Bull: St Duthac: Tain

Hot off the press today, we are in the news here…

Papal Bull

Volunteers at a small Highland museum have turned to a 21st Century method of fundraising in order to save a 500 year-old document. The trustees of the Tain and District Museum have started a crowd-funding campaign in order to raise enough money to preserve an historic Papal Bull.

The parchment established the Ross-shire town as a key religious centre in Scotland. The museum hopes to raise £800 to conserve it. Dated 17 July 1492, the Papal Bull confirmed the status of the Collegiate Kirk of St Duthac of Tain, a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary visited regularly by King James IV. The document was the Pope’s way of recognising and defending a religious order or settlement.

Written on vellum, the ancient parchment has the original lead papal seal attached to it by a silken chord of red and yellow strands. It bears the name of Pope Innocent VIII and carries the signature of his cardinal secretary Alessandro Farnese. Farnese went on to become Pope Paul III – the pope who excommunicated King Henry VIII.

Tain’s Papal Bull is not on public display because of its deteriorating condition. The museum plans to professionally conserve the document and create a high quality digital facsimile to display in the museum. Chairman of the Trustees Alastair Jupp said: “We have not been able to display The Bull for some time due to its condition. “This important document has been in our trust for over 500 years and we feel it is our responsibility to preserve it for future generations.”

The Collegiate Church in Tain was built to house the bones of St Duthac, an 11th Century preacher born in the town who is said to have performed a number of miracles.

King James IV is said to have made a pilgrimage to the shrine every year for 20 years. James V and Robert the Bruce are also believed to have visited the church.


St Duthac Collegiate Church: Tain: RossShire

Here is the Collegiate Church in Tain, following on from yesterday’s post and it is the site of the Pilgrimage Way over the centuries. This is also where the little museum is located. I am not able to photograph the stained glass inside until April; yes once again…the doors were locked!

Collegiate Church 10


Collegiate Church 1

Collegiate Church 3 Collegiate Church 4

Collegiate Church 5

Collegiate Church 7

Collegiate Church 8 Collegiate Church 6

Collegiate Church 12 Coolegiate Church 11

Collegiate Church 13

St Duthac Shrine: Tain: RossShire

St Duthac Old Church

According to the Breviary of Aberdeen, Duthac [1000-1065] was a Native Scot. Tradition has it that Duthac was educated in Ireland and died in Tain. He is the patron saint of Tain. In the past pilgrimages always stopped here to pay homage to his shrine and many great Scottish kings have been included in that number. Tain was a popular pilgrimage site, favoured by local and nobility alike. It reached its height of popularity in the reign of James IV (1488-1513), who visited almost annually after his first visit in 1493. Clearly there was piety involved, but some historians have also pointed out that it was convenient when visiting his favourite mistress at Darnoway Castle in Moray. This patronage resulted in a flow of money and gifts to the shrine.

Given how popular the cult was, it is somewhat surprising how little we know about St Duthac himself. The connection with Tain seems to be simply that a cleric of that name was born and buried there. Few details of his life can be verified. Tain was able to capitalise on the cult by its possession of a number of relics, including his bones, shirt and bell. All of these disappeared after the Reformation.

A chapel was built-in his honor and a sanctuary established at Tain, by the great Ferchar mac in Sagairt, first Earl or Mormaer of Ross in the thirteenth century, and was ministered by the Norbertine canons of Fearn Abbey. A century later, this sanctuary was notably breached by English supporters who captured Robert the Bruce’s wife and daughter sheltering in the chapel. The chapel was burnt later in political violence between regional power groups, namely the Clan MacKay and the Clan Ross. The ruins of the chapel still exist as a centerpiece of a cemetery along the shores of the Dornoch Firth.

St Duthac Old Church 4 St Duthac Old Church 5 St Duthac Old Church 3 St Duthac Old Church 2

Saint Duthac was greatly venerated in Scotland before the (First) Reformation – Celtic to Catholic – and his memory is still preserved in place names, notably Kilduthie; Arduthie near Stonehaven and Kilduich on the Loch Duich. Tain, where he died and was buried, had the Church built specially in his honour. His death is recorded in “The Annals of Ulster” for the year 1065. After many years his body was found to be incorrupt and his relics were translated to a more splendid shrine at St. Duthus Collegiate Church built between 1370 and 1458. They disappeared in 1560 at the time of the Reformation. He was known as the Chief Confessor of Ireland and Scotland (Dubtach Albanach) and his saint’s feast day is 8 March. His shrine was visited by King James IV, Robert the Bruce and his family, plus many other notables.

St Duthac Old 7 St Duthac Old 2

Tain was called Baile Dhubhthaich in Scottish Gaelic or Duthac’s Town and near it stands St. Duthac’s Cairn, although the biennial Fairs called by his name are no longer held in the town.

St Duthac Old 5 looking towards sea St Duthac Old 9

Here is the St Duthus Collegiate Church in Tain, located near to the town centre, where his relics once laid, a museum is also housed by the entrance. Tain is the oldest Scottish Royal Borough and it is where we live.


Colmcille’s Monastery, ‘Iona of the East’ 2: Portmahomack

A few hundred yards down the road from Tarbat lies Portmahomack, one of the prettiest little villages I have seen. It is a small population, a sleepy village but with  warm- hearted and sociable residents. We often go down, to walk on the beach late into the ‘white nights’ of summer, when the sun barely sets or throughout the year with a flask of tea to just enjoy life to the full and watch the little crab and lobster boats pulling in their creels. Here are a few of my photographs of it, taken at differing times.  There is a fabulous lobster restaurant, little community cafe, village shop, pubs, church, numerous groups to join and dances and film shows… and children paddling their canoes in the sea, dogs splashing in and out of the water…unstressed people with the sun on their faces living life to the max. A real community. In the pictures below, the elephants are painted on someone’s garage door.

Port 2

Port 3


Port 1


Fishing boats @ PortmahomackFishing for lobsters Fishing pots Garage Door, Portmahomack, Scotland Harbour view Portmahomack, Scotland Sea through the trees 3 Victorian statue Portmahomack

Colmcille’s Monastery, Tarbat: “Iona of the East” 1

This afternoon I rushed down to another local haunt of ours to re-photograph Tarbat Discovery Centre, as the skies darkened and rainbows blazoned out. It is located in an old church and is the site of an ancient Pictish monastery. As with so many of my local posts, these places all lay within a 15-20 minute radius of where we live.  The Tarbat centre is open to visitors from Easter through until September/October and by arrangement at other times.  It houses fine examples of Pictish stones, the tools and artifacts used by the monks for illuminated manuscripts, skeletons in their stone coffins, examples of the silverware produced here for monasteries around Britain and Europe and also houses the Tain RAF museum. Here is a little bit about it…

Tarbat Ness is a long way from Colmcille’s monastic foundation on Iona off the west coast of Scotland. But Colmcille visited this area in c.565 – only two years after he arrived in Scotland – to forge stronger political relationships with the ruling Picts and to get a guarantee that his monks would be protected as they travelled. He is said to have visited King Brude, possibly at the Iron Age fort at Craig Phadraig which sits at the edge of modern Inverness. The beautiful peninsula of Tarbat Ness to discover the Christian art and faith of the Picts who were Colmcille’s contemporaries and whose monastery at Portmahomack has been called ‘the Iona of the east’.

The monks of Portmahomack had everything they needed to live and work – they had farm land, a mill, workshops for making sacred glassware and metalwork, and a church. About 150 people lived and worked here.

At the heart of the monastery was a workshop for the production of vellum – the writing surface used by monks for their illuminated manuscripts.Vellum is made from animal skins. Excavations in Portmahomack have revealed frames used for stretching the vellum as it dries, and fireplaces where shells, bones and seaweed were burnt and made into solutions for smoothing the vellum. Given that the monks were making their own vellum, it is probable that they may have also produced their own highly decorated gospel books similar to the Book of Kells. Archaeologist Martin Carver has suggested that the four cross slabs found here were used to mark out the edges of the land controlled by the monastery at Portmahomack.

‘They were the most extraordinary artists. They could draw a wolf, a salmon, an eagle on a piece of stone with a single line and produce a beautiful naturalistic drawing. Nothing as good as this is found between Portmahomack and Rome. Even the Anglo-Saxons didn’t do stone-carving as well as the Picts did. Not until the post-Renaissance were people able to get across the character of animals just like that.’

Professor Martin Carver, University of York.(Lead archaeologist, Portmahomack excavations.)

The monastic settlement came to an end around 820AD when it appears to have been attacked, probably by Vikings. Archaeologists have discovered burnt timbers dating from this time. They also discovered broken cross slabs which appear to have been destroyed at the same time. This statue stands by the entrance to the centre.

Tarbat Statue 2 Tarbat Statue 1

Tarbatt Iona of the East Church 2

Tarbatt Iona of the East Church 3

Tarbatt Iona of the East Notice

Tarbatt Iona of the East Notice 2

Tarbatt Iona of the East Notice 4

Tarbatt Iona of the East Notice 3

Tarbatt Iona of the East Notice 5

This is a memorial stone in the churchyard.

Tarbatt Memorial Stone

The following post puts  the settlement at Tarbat into its landscape context with photos of the surrounding village a few hundred yards away of Portmahomack, a great favourite of ours.

St Ninians: Invergordon

St Ninian is a Christian saint, first mentioned in the eighth century as being a missionary who preached to the Pictish Peoples of Scotland. Bede states that Ninian was a Briton, educated in Rome, but little evidence has been found to validate his existence historically as yet. The picture below shows St Ninian preaching to ‘the pagans’.

St Ninian

St Ninians Church in Invergordon belongs to the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness. It is a Scottish Episcopalian Church.

St Ninians

 Last year my husband’s nephew married down in Beccles, but he and his wife travelled the 573 odd miles up here a couple of days later to hold a blessing ceremony in this little local church to us, fully dressed up as they were on their big day. They then spent their honeymoon up here. These photos were taken at that time. The whole congregation turned out to celebrate with us, and with customary Scottish welcome, nothing was too much trouble. They made the day one to remember.

St Ninians Stained Glass

St Ninians Font

Below are the beautiful murals in the little church entrance.

Mural 2 Mural 1

Mural 3

St Ninians overlooks the sea across the street and Invergordon town centre is just a wee walk away and has a history of murals as you will see from these beautiful ones below, painted onto walls of buildings and celebrating the history and people of the town. There are twelve altogether, only six pictured here.

Inver Murals 2

Inver murals 1

Inver Murals 3

Mural 1  Mural 3 Mural 4

Mural 2

 In the early 1900’s Invergordon became an official naval base; the Firth was thought suitable because of the channel depth and frequently had visits from the Home Fleet.  During the First World War (1914-1918) Invergordon was a full-scale base for the Royal Navy, providing fuel oil, water and dockyard repairs.  The town’s population mushroomed when 6,000 people came to work in the dockyards.  The people of Invergordon were exposed to the horrors of war when, at Hogmanay in 1915, HMS Natal blew up in mysterious circumstances with a loss of over 300 lives.  Some ‘Natal’ gravestones can be seen at Rosskeen churchyard.

In 1931, at the time of the World depression, the British Government announced huge pay cuts.  When the Atlantic Fleet returned to the Firth whilst on manoeuvres, meetings of the below-deck crew were held in Invergordon and a policy of passive resistance was agreed – no ships would sail from the Firth.  Although this is known as the Invergordon Mutiny, no ships were taken over and no officers captured.  Within days however the fleet was slowly leaving and sailing to its home bases in the south.  The effect of the ‘mutiny’ had caused a run on the Government’s gold reserves and in the short-term the pay cuts were reviewed and reduced.

During both World Wars the harbour and oil storage tanks were of great value to the Royal Navy.  Before, during and after the last War these facilities were improved but the contraction of the Admiralty after the Second World War reduced the base to a fuelling port. The economy of the town was built and expanded on it, but now relies heavily on the oil-rigs brought in for repair and the servicing of oil rigs out at sea, since the Navy left. It is also a magnet for the cruiser trade with many cruisers coming in from all around the world throughout the summer months.  Here is a view of the Sutors, the opening which takes ships out to the Firth from Invergordon, a wonderful site to behold, with an oil rig visible. These rigs get towed all around the world. The large cable laying ships also berth and supply here between their trips laying the deep water cables all around the globe.

From Invergordon

The Friends of Friendless Churches

I have been browsing the internet this afternoon, seeking out new churches and Cathedrals to put on my “to do and view” list when I next go travelling…and came across this very interesting little charity that I had not heard of before. I thought it may interest some of you followers too…and I am sure they could use more support! So here is the link…

The Friends of Friendless Churches campaigns for and rescues redundant historic churches threatened by demolition and decay. We now own over 40 former places of worship, half in England, half in Wales. We preserve these buildings intact for the local community and visitors to enjoy. Without us, all of these buildings would no longer be here, or open to the public. Maintaining and repairing our churches is a considerable financial challenge. We rely a great deal on the generosity of our members and on the willingness of groups of local ‘Friends’ to fundraise and to act as our eyes and ears. If you are interested in rescuing redundant churches we urge you to join us or you can buy our book.