Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Scottish Restorations

Today being the feast day of a little known 9th century Scottish saint provides me with an excuse for a little nostalgia and some fascinating archive footage.  St Moroc, Morocus, or Mawarroc, was Bishop of Dunblane and Abbot of Dunkeld, both towns with which I have a personal connection, having grown up nearby, and both towns with mediaeval cathedrals that fell into various states of disrepair and ruin before being restored and now being parish churches of the Church of Scotland. 

St Moroc is one of the Scottish saints whose cult was probably built up quite deliberately and very successfully by Bishop Elphinstone of Aberdeen, a giant of Scottish 15th century history.  In his Brevarium Aberdonse and elsewhere he did much to create a distinctively Scottish calendar of saints.

Dunblane Cathedral is a very fine building, and contains a truly fantastic Flentrop organ, built in 1990 which is the instrument on which I spent innumerable hours practising during university vacations. 

Dunkeld Cathedral is also an attractive, if less spectacular, building, with a long history.  I recall now with some amusement a visit there with a German exchange student, with my parents, in around 1988.  A Pageant of the History of Scotland was being presented one evening, which is a big deal in a small (and very beautiful, do go) town like Dunkeld.  My mother, who could not ever be accused in any way of pro-Catholic bias, was absolutely mortified at the presentation of the events of the 16th century in front of our Bavarian Catholic guest : even Ian Paisley might have blushed at the bloodcurdling accounts of the Scots being "liberated" from the clutches of Rome.  There was certainly no malice or bigotry intended, the tone quite simply represented an acquired portrayal of one particular version of events.

Of more interest perhaps to modern day Catholics is Pluscarden Abbey, which although it did fall into disuse at the time of the Reformation, was never formally suppressed in the same way as so many similar establishments were. 

I happened to come across this fascinating video footage of the "Restoration Mass" celebrated there on 8 September 1948, marking the decision to rebuild and reopen Pluscarden.  A Solemn High Mass was celebrated by a mitred abbot (I would guess that it must be the Abbot of Prinknash), in the presence of  the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in cappa magna (that Archbishop being the last post-Reformation Primate of Scotland in office before the practice of making the Primate of Scotland a Cardinal was restored for Gordon Gray).  Also dressed very properly are some other bishops (including the local bishop, the Bishop of Aberdeen) and multiple Canons in mozzette and Nuns in now astonishing headgear.

Those of you with a connection to the Order of Malta will note that the Abbey building and grounds were given back to the Church by Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart, who must, we would guess, be connected to the late HE Fra' Freddie Crichton-Stuart, a description of whose recent Requiem Mass can be found here, along with a link to some photos of that day at the Brompton Oratory taken by Eoghain Murphy.

Deo gratias!

St Moroc, pray for us.

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