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History

An Irish import

Round towers are typically Irish. Nearly 100 may have been built in Ireland between AD 900 and 1200, and more than 60 of those survive today. They were primarily used as bell towers, though they also often found use as treasuries and refuges.

Only three round towers are known outside of Ireland:

There is no direct architectural link between these towers and the round towers attached to churches found in Orkney.

Through the ages

Though it’s attached to the cathedral today, Brechin Round Tower predates the rest of the building. Brechin’s religious community probably dates back to at least the reign of Kenneth II (971-5), with the tower likely built a century or two later. The tower was free-standing until 1806, when it became connected to the south-west angle of the cathedral’s nave.

Its ornamental carved doorway, 2m above ground level, was the original entrance and was accessed by ladder. The tower is built with massive blocks of irregular sandstone, and probably originally had six storeys with wooden floors.

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