St Mary’s Kirk

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This is in a lovely setting among the trees above the Craig Burn, the ruins of the church are surrounded by a carefully tended old walled graveyard with some rather nice old grave slabs. There is a newer extension to the graveyard to the south. Well away from traffic noise. The only sound was water and birdsong. It is a delightful place.

Now a roofless ruin, with a small bell cot at the west end, the church was built in the 13thC. and is one of the few medieval churches to survive. It was altered in the 17thC after the Reformation when the bell cot was added and larger windows replaced the original tiny lancet windows. One of these can still be seen blocked off on the outside north wall. A doorway was made in the east wall and a square doorway added in the south wall with a small carved shield above it. It was in use until 1810 when a new church was built.

The main claim to fame is the Norman doorway and sacrament house, both of which survived the post Reformation make over.

The Norman doorway in the south wall has water flower capitals at the top of the side pillars and a carefully carved dog tooth arch above. In comparison, the north doorway of similar age has a plain round arch. Few Norman doorways survive in Scottish churches.

The sacrament House set in the north wall would have contained the host. It is flanked by buttresses and has a pyramidal roof. This has a carved inscription;”Hic est Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Chrisit Virginis Mariae”. (This is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary.) On the top of the roof is a small carved crucifix with a tiny skull at the base. There is a small aumbray on the east wall and a piscina on the south wall.

On the east wall are carved shields of the Gordon family with their family mottoes. There is a splendid 1580 granite slab propped up against the wall and another carved memorial tablet on the south wall with an angel head at the top and crossed bones at the bottom. The inscription is now too worn to read. There are also two large 19thC memorial stones set in pillars under a portico.

This is a nice little ruined church in a lovely setting. It is well worth finding. It is signed along the B9002 from the A97, between Rhynie and Lumsden. Ignore the first ruined church you see on your left just after the junction. This isn’t St Mary’s which is further on on the left side of the road. There is parking on either of the drives that give access to the church.

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