Our Cathedral Church is the main place of worship in the Catholic Diocese of Aberdeen. It was opened in December 1860 as the principal Catholic Church in the west end of the city, replacing St. Peter's Church in the Castlegate, when there were about 1,000 Catholics out of a population of 74,000 and the number of Catholics was increasing. It became the Cathedral (the church of the Bishop's Chair ) when the post-reformation diocese was set up in 1878.
If you would like more detailed information, may we suggest that you buy our Souvenir Brochure from the Cathedral Bookshop or from the rack at the back of the church by the main entrance.
The architect of the church was Alexander Ellis, a local man. The spire, added with the bells in 1876-1877, was designed by R.G. Wilson. The church was rededicated in I960, the centenary of its opening, after the interior had been extensively simplified, anticipating by some years the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican
Council between 1962 and 1965.
THE MAIN ENTRANCE is usually open on Sundays, Feast Days, and for weddings and funerals. It includes an engraved window of St. John Ogilvie, the work of David Gulland. St. John was born near Keith about 1580, ordained a priest in 1610 and martyred in Glasgow on 10 March 1615. This window was erected in 1978 to mark the Centenary of the Restoration of Diocesan Bishops in Scotland in 1878.
THE SIDE ENTRANCE at 16 Huntly Street is the weekday entrance. From this entrance there is access to the church and the Ogilvie Centre for Religious Education and Formation and the Church Halls. Outside the entrance and high up facing Union Street is a statue of Our Lady by Alexander Brodie.
THE BAPTISMAL FONT was placed in its present position in 1978 so that those entering the church may bless themselves with the baptismal water, a reminder of the individual Christian's own baptism. Beside the font at various times during the year, you may see the Easter or Paschal Candle, the symbol of Christ risen from the dead.
THE NAVE is the large central area of the church and has six glass-fibre reliefs, three each side: within the spandrels between the arches, the work of another local artist, Anne Davidson. They depict scenes of the Blessed Virgin Mary's role in the Life of Christ commencing on your right from the west-end, namely: The Annunciation; The Birth of Christ; The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple; the Wedding-Feast at Cana; Our Lord taken down from the Cross; The Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary and the Apostles.
THE LADY ALTAR situated under the spire, in the north-west corner of the church, is the principal shrine in the diocese of our patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary, entitled 'Our Lady of Aberdeen'. The hand-carved wooden statue of Our Lady is a replica of the original honoured in our city prior to the Reformation, but now in the Church of Notre Dame de Finisterre, Rue Neuve, Brussels. Mounted on the right-hand wall of the Lady Chapel are four monuments to former Bishops: George Hay, buried near Kemnay; James Kyle, buried near Buckie; John McDonald and Colin Grant. There is one ornate monument, to Monsignor William Stopani. Under the floor of the little sanctuary rest the bodies of Bishops McDonald and Grant and of Monsignor Stopani; also three Franciscan Sisters who taught in the parish school, which was situated at 16 Huntly Street.
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS on the north wall of the church, running from the Blessed Sacrament altar to the Lady Chapel, represent stages of the last journey of Jesus from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his crucifixion, death and burial. They are mosaics, the work of Gabriel Loire of Chartres.
THE BLESSED SACRAMENT SHRINE is to the left front as you face the sanctuary. A red oil-lamp burns constantly as a sign of the Real Presence of Christ in the tangible form of the consecrated bread or Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, reserved in the tabernacle on the altar. Here Catholics genuflect in adoration.
Visitors are asked not to disturb those at prayer in this sacred corner. Above is a painting of Our Lord, the Merciful Judge, by Felix McCullough of Edinburgh.
THE SANCTUARY is the focal point of the cathedral. The high altar is made from Aberdeen granite, which is where the main celebration of the Holy Eucharist takes place. The altar, erected in 1960, is adorned by a short frontal tapestry woven by Fiona Forsyth, an Edinburgh artist. To one side of the altar is the ambo, or lectern, from which the Scriptures are read during the sacred liturgies. On the sanctuary wall is a modern glass-fibre rood, the cross of Christ with Mary his mother and John the young disciple on either side, by Charles Blakeman of London. To either side are two large panels painted by Fiona Forsythe. A number of the saints depicted in the paintings have a particular association with the Diocese. They are, on the left hand panel, and from left to right: Saints Ninian, Serf, Enoch, Drostan, Fergus, Medan & Colin and the Macdonald Maidens (top); Saints Columba, Devenick, Machar, Baithene, Fintan - Munnu, Kenneth & Donan, Maelrubha, Adamnan and Mungo (bottom) and on the right hand panel: Saints Gerardine, Margaret of Scotland and Magnus (top); Saints Nathalan, Duthac, Gilbert of Moray and John Ogilvie (bottom). The rose window was inserted by Dean William Stopani in the last century. If you turn and face the back of the church, look up to the loft at the rear to see the very fine organ, a rare example of the work of James Conacher of Huddersfield, installed in 1887.
To view the WEST WINDOW stand near the sanctuary, turn towards the choir loft to see a feature often missed by visitors and parishioners. This window depicts the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. Above, almost hidden, is a tiny window which shows a descending dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.
THE CITY PATRONS SHRINE along from the main altar shows another painting by Felix McCullough of the saints Nicholas, Machar and Clement. Also in the painting are St. Andrew and St. Margaret who are the patron saints of Scotland. St. Nicholas is of course the original 'Santa Claus'.
THE CHAPTER ROOM through the door to the right of the City Patrons' altar, is the regular meeting place of the Cathedral's Chapter of Canons.
The Cathedral has few endowments and is largely supported by the free-will offerings of the parishioners, who also try to help needy small missions in the Diocese of Aberdeen and in far-off mission lands. If you can help us financially, we will be most grateful. Offerings may be placed in the collection boxes, or posted to:
Sites of Catholic interest:
In the city of Aberdeen: St. Peter's, Justice Street and the secret chapel in Provost Skene's House, Broad Street.
In Old Aberdeen: St. Machar's Cathedral, King's College Chapel and the Snow Kirkyard.
Elsewhere in the diocese:
Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin; Greyfriars in Elgin; the medieval Sacrament Houses at Kinkell, Kintore,
Auchendor, Cullen and Deskford; the 'heather seminary' at Scalan in Glenlivet; also Preshome and Tynet.
In the west:
Marydale; Fort Augustus Abbey at the south end of Loch Ness.
Finally: The Cathedral Book Shop stocks a large selection of books, cards, religious items, etc. The stained glass window behind depicts Our Lady, St. John the Evangelist, St Theresa (the Little Flower), the Transfiguration and St. Margaret. The wooden statue over the notice board is that of St. Anthony.