A Love of Churches – How did that happen?

Prof Adam Cumming

Chairperson, Scotland’s Churches Trust

I got involved with what is now Scotland’s Churches Trust because I had a love of mediaeval churches, and that all started many years ago, when as a child I was taken to Melrose Abbey.  I remember seeing the surviving vaults and being awestruck.

That impression stayed with me and fired interest in what those buildings were and to do that, being me, I had to find out more.  Eventually, after seeing English and French churches I needed to know more about Scotland – was it different?  What existed here?

Melrose Abbey

I could not just look at churches, I am a scientist so had to know more – the history, how it linked to other such buildings across Europe; the music used in them, and the decoration including the heraldry.  It was and remains fascinating, and I may write more about this, for it is clear to me that Scotland and its churches both in the Middle Ages and after were individual but part of a larger European whole.  They were not just a cheap copy of what was elsewhere, but reflected local thought and needs.

Some of that drew on experience and some on what was learned.  Masons moved freely as did thought and people – much more freely than I had thought. 

So how many are there?  Many of the larger churches were destroyed but even the fragments of Elgin and St Andrews Cathedrals show the quality.  Others such as Glasgow, Kirkwall and Brechin are a symbol of past faith and artistry.  

This is just as true in the surviving large burgh churches such as St Giles, Haddington, Stirling, Linlithgow and Perth.

Then there are the smaller Churches such as Dalmeny, Symington, Tain, Whitekirk, Corstorphine and Midcalder which are part of our cultural heritage.  And, of course, you cannot stop at the Reformation but need to understand how these places were adapted to meet new worship needs as society changed. We have a rich ecclesiastical heritage, which is both European and Scottish, and we need to be proud of that and take delight in our churches – I know that I do!

All photographs by Adam Cumming