Perth Cathedral, St Ninian’s was the first to be built in Britain after the Reformation, and was consecrated in 1850. It stands on ground that originally formed part of the Blackfriars Monastery and is dedicated to St. Ninian, the first name we know in the Christian history of Scotland.

st ninians cathedralPerth Cathedral was designed by the London architect, William Butterfield and is an A listed building. In the year he designed St Ninian’s he also designed Adelaide Cathedral in Australia and Frederichton in Canada. (Butterfield also designed All Saints, Margaret Street, London; Keble College, Oxford; and St Augustine’s College, Canterbury.) The Butterfield design was completed in two phases in 1850 and 1890. Another London architect, John L Pearson designed the Lady Chapel and the Chapter House around 1900; these additions were carried out by his son, Frank Pearson.

An ebook is available with a more detailed guide about the building and development of St Ninian’s Cathedral from 1847-1914, by Margaret Lye, please contact the office to purchase a copy.

Episcopal churches are usually aligned East – West so that the morning sun rises and shines through the window above the altar. Above the altar at the cathedral there is a beautiful baldacchino designed by Pearson. In the middle ages important people moving around had an escort of four men holding poles upright with a silk cover stretched between them to protect them from the sun. The Doge of Venice is usually pictured under one of these. This feature over the altar is similar and is called a baldacchino.

Scottish Episcopal Church History

Five hundred years ago there was one church in Scotland with the pope at its head. There followed a Reformation and two churches emerged, the Episcopal church managed by bishops and the Presbyterian church which did not want bishops.

At first the Episcopal Church had the support of the King, Charles II, and was the established church. King Charles II died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother James II. James was unpopular because of his religion and was forced into exile and his daughter, Mary, who was married to William of Orange became queen with William as king. William did not have the support of the Episcopal church who had sworn an oath of allegiance to James II.

st ninians alterBecause of their loyalty to James II and the Stuarts the church became disestablished. In 1745 James’s grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland in an attempt to regain his grandfather’s throne and received support from the Episcopalians and when Charles attempt failed, he escaped back to the continent. Penal Acts were then passed against the Episcopal Church making it practically illegal and numbers were reduced to a remnant.

Charles died without issue in 1788 and Episcopal clergy could then pray for the Hanoverian King George. The Penal Acts were repealed and the church began a century of recovery. The established Church of Scotland owned all the old mediaeval cathedrals – Dunkeld, Dunblane etc but in 1847 two wealthy aristocrats decided it was time the Episcopal Church had a Cathedral again and Perth was chosen as the place to build it. These two men were Lord Forbes whose main home was in Aberdeenshire and the Hon George Boyle whose brother was the Earl of Glasgow. The Boyle family have owned Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire for about 800 years and the present Earl of Glasgow lives there. It is open to the public and well worth a visit. These two men are commemorated in the Founders Window at the Cathedral.

The first thing you give a bishop is a nice comfortable chair and in the church they use the Latin name for an armchair, a cathedra, and so the building they put the chair in is called a cathedral. Most of the Episcopal churches in Scotland were built after 1850 and are designed with an arrangement similar to the mediaeval English Parish Church. It has a nave (where the public sit), a chancel (occupied by the choir) and a presbytery (occupied by the clergy).

The Episcopal Church is divided into seven dioceses with seven bishops. Following the building of Perth Cathedral, six more cathedrals were built for the other areas in Scotland. There are now over 300 Episcopal Churches in Scotland, which can be identified by the above sign.

For more information about the Scottish Episcopal Church please visit the Scottish Episcopal Church website.

Interested in a more detailed history of St Ninian's Cathedral?Interested in a more detailed history of St Ninian's Cathedral?


A detailed history of St Ninian's Cathedral - 1847-1914

The Hon. George Frederick Boyle and Horace Courtney Forbes were aged twenty-two and eighteen respectively and were students at Oxford when the building of a cathedral at Perth was first proposed. Both were to be enthusiastic supporters but without the commitment and support of Horace’s father, Walter, the 19th Lord Forbes it is difficult to believe that these young men could have made much progress with the project. It was Forbes’ money which enabled it to move resolutely forward to the consecration of the first phase of the cathedral on the 10th December 1850.


Appendices & Bibliography