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Chants echo at cathedral ruins

By Lorna Thompson

ELGIN Cathedral played host to a Roman Catholic mass for the first time in more than four centuries at the weekend.

The mass, celebrated by Father Ross Crichton, a visiting priest from the Western Isles, was sung in the ruin's Huntly Aisle on Saturday, May 18, and was attended by around 30 people, many of whom were participating in the Confraternity of St Ninian's weekend retreat to nearby Pluscarden Abbey.

The ceremony at Elgin Cathedral.
The ceremony at Elgin Cathedral.

It is believed that no previous celebration of mass had taken place within the ruin since it was abandoned by the Catholic Church around 1560. The cathedral, which was founded in 1224, was one of the most prominent centres of the mediaeval Church in Scotland and the impressive structure was known as the "Lantern of the North".

The mass, which took place with the co-operation of Historic Environment Scotland, was preceded by a service in the chapel of nearby Greyfriars Convent.

The ceremony featured Gregorian chants identical to those which would have been sung in the cathedral during its heyday.

The Confraternity of St Ninian, which organised the mass, is a lay association and Scottish charity which promotes the Roman Catholic Faith in Scotland. It has organised similar masses in historic ruins such as Arbroath Abbey and St Andrews Cathedral.

Its president, Mark Hamid, said: "It has been an undoubted highlight of our experience to restore the celebration of Holy Mass to a place where it was offered with daily devotion for more than three centuries, and all the more meaningful to use the form of the sacred rites that is so similar to the liturgy used during that period."

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