"Ruined Magnificence? St Andrews Cathedral after the Reformation" by Dr Bess Rhodes

When & Where

Abertay Historical Society
Wednesday, 14 April 2021 - 7:00pm to 7:45pm
Online, Online, Online

Event Details

Online presentation and live question and answer session.

Please book for the live Q&A at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ruined-magnificence-st-andrews-cathedral-af...

In June 1559 Protestant activists descended on St Andrews Cathedral – determined ‘for reformation to be made’. They stripped the cathedral of its furnishings and made a bonfire of Catholic religious images. This moment marked the end of the cathedral’s role as Scotland’s largest and most important church, and an abrupt shift in religious practices within St Andrews. Yet it was far from the end of the story of the cathedral site. The imposing ruins of the cathedral church continued to fascinate later generations, with notable visitors to St Andrews frequently regretting the loss of its former ‘magnificence’. Meanwhile local residents made practical use of this substantial area of land. The abbey mills continued to operate into the 19th century, dwellings were constructed in the old monastic precinct, and other sections of the site turned over to gardens and orchards. However, this later period in the cathedral’s history has received limited attention from modern scholars. Indeed, for much of the 20th century there were efforts to remove evidence of post-medieval occupation, most notably through the demolition of Priory House, a substantial Georgian residence built in the former cloisters. This free online talk will suggest that by overlooking St Andrews Cathedral’s post-Reformation history, we miss out on a key element of the site’s story, which does much to explain the nature of the place we see today.

Dr Bess Rhodes is a research fellow with the interdisciplinary Open Virtual Worlds team at the University of St Andrews. She is also Head of Historical Research for the team’s spin-out company Smart History (which specialises in applying digital technologies to history and heritage). Dr Rhodes is author of ‘Riches and Reform: Ecclesiastical Wealth in St Andrews, c.1520-1580’ (2019), which explores the economic consequences of the Reformation in Scotland’s religious capital.


Matthew Jarron
01382 384310



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