Historic Scotland

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The earliest part of the church at Pierowall was built in the 1200s, though the area has been a focus of occupation since the Viking era. When Pierowall Church was built, Orkney was part of the diocese of Trondheim in Norway.

The church was largely rebuilt in the 1600s. The ambitious alterations included:

  • a widening of the nave, to make it suitable for Presbyterian worship
  • construction of a laird’s aisle, possibly converted from the medieval chancel
  • the addition of a bellcote to the west gable

An inscription on a skewput on the laird’s aisle – a private space for the local landowner - gives a date of 1674.

Some very fine grave-slabs were erected here around this time, too. The extensive works indicate the wealth of the community on Pierowall and the importance the church had to the local people.

The slabs are distinguished examples of high-status burial memorials. Their fine lettering is a match for the collection of slabs at St Magnus’ Cathedral in Kirkwall, and they provide an interesting insight into the beliefs associated with death at this time.