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St Andrews Cathedral

The cathedral has lain in ruins for several hundred year, but it's still a fascinating place to visit . The date of the first religious community in St Andrews depends on which of the legends you believe. The more credible is that relics of St Andrew were brought to this corner of Fife by Bishop Acca of Hexam in c.732AD. The more romantic is that five bones of the saint were brought here by St Rule in the 4th century after sailing from Greece and getting shipwrecked in the site of the present day harbour. St Andrews' prominence within the history of the Church can be put down mainly to one thing; Vikings. Whereas most religious communities were isolated on the islands, the coming of the Norsemen and their love of pillage meant that the Early Church had to move to safer places on the mainland.

There are actually several churches within the encompassing arms of the cathedral: the church of St Mary, which is now barely visible; St Rule's Church, of which today the St Rule's Tower remains. At 100ft high, it is one of St Andrews' major landmarks. However, after these churches were found too small, work began in 1160 to build the largest cathedral in Scotland. This, unsurprisingly, took 150 years to complete and was finally consecrated in 1318 in the presence of Robert the Bruce.

Although the cathedral suffered from bad luck - the nave collapsed in 1270, the English removed the lead from the roof for ammunition during the Wars of Independence, it was badly damaged by fire in 1378 and the south transept was blown down by a storm in 1409 - it was the Reformation that spelled the end for the building. After John Knox's sermon within St Andrews parish church in 1559, the cathedral, roused by his speech, destroyed the 'popery' within the cathedral. Within a week, all of the monks had been expelled, the Church of St Mary had been destroyed, and the cathedral had stopped functioning. It never recovered. The next centuries saw it robbed out for stone to build properties within the town and its ruination was complete.

There still is much to see on the site; the graveyard itself, which occupies much of the precinct, is fascinating, and there are still evidence of tombs and pillars in evidence. The cathedral grounds are free to enter, and are well worth wandering around.

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