Elgin Stones come home to boost Moray tourism

Piece of Moray history to return home
Piece of Moray history to return home

MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES are being returned to Elgin Cathedral in time for an exhibition that will open on the Easter Weekend.

Historic Scotland have revealed that work has begun on returning the 126 ancient stones with carved faces, plants and animals after they spent the last year being cleaned and studied in Edinburgh by experts.

Now an immersive exhibition surrounding the ‘Elgin Stones’ has been developed, telling the story of the cathedral and the people who built and used it.

Elgin Cathedral has a dramatic history, surviving both devastating fire in 1270 and attacks by the Earl of Buchan in 1390 and Alexander, Lord of the Isles in 1402. After the Reformation this beautiful cathedral, sometimes known as ‘The Lantern of the North,’ lost its roof and fell into disrepair.

Fiona Fleming, Interpretation Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, explained, “For many years, the carved stones lay buried amidst the ruins – until the 1800s, when Elgin shoemaker John Shanks became the first keeper and watchman of the cathedral.

“He began to clear away some of the rubble uncovering wonderful, crisp carvings that had been buried for centuries.

“By studying the stones we have been able to understand more about the cathedral’s construction and development, its builders and benefactors, and what it might have meant to those who walked through its doors.”

For the first time in 20 years, visitors to the Cathedral will be able to get up close to these remarkable stones, including Bishops’ memorials and fragments of a 13th century rose window, discovered during repair works in 1936.

The displays will also explore the messages contained in the many carvings that embellished the medieval cathedral, from flora, fauna and funny faces to mystical beasts and heraldic motifs.

Lorna Ewan, Head of Visitor Experience, Content and Learning at Historic Environment Scotland, said, “This is shaping up to be a fascinating exhibition, one which will bring the story of Elgin Cathedral to life for visitors.

“We’ve worked with academic experts to decode the messages within the carvings, and in partnership with Napier University on a wonderful lighting display to create a truly innovative exhibition for Scotland’s year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

“If you’re planning your family outings for 2016, I’d highly recommend that a visit to Elgin Cathedral goes on the list.”