Skip to content
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland

Opening times

April to October: 9.30am to 4.30pm

November to March: 10am to 4pm

 

History

St Machar’s Cathedral was the seat of the bishop of Aberdeen. In about 1131, Bishop Nechtan moved his seat, or cathedra, from Mortlach (now Dufftown) to Aberdeen, though nothing we see today dates to before the late 1300s.

The only part now roofed is the eight-bay aisled nave, begun in the late 1300s and roofed in the mid-1400s. It remains in use as the parish church of Old Aberdeen.

A tower collapse in 1688 destroyed much of the medieval church, including the transepts, the choir, and the presbytery.

The wall tombs

The north and south transepts contain some fine wall tombs for the bishops of Aberdeen. The finest is that of Bishop Gavin Dunbar (1518-32), who had the south transept remodelled by James V’s master mason Thomas French.

His tomb chest is decorated with:

  • blind arcading with trefoils
  • a tomb arch with square flowers
  • square buttresses on each side of the arch, topped by an ornate finial
  • the arms of the bishop and his king
  • the bishop’s effigy

Other wall tombs include an unidentified bishop adjacent to Bishop Dunbar, and the tomb chest of Bishop Henry Leighton in the north transept, also known as St John’s Aisle.

Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Save with an Explorer Pass

Get free entry to Scotland’s top visitor attractions with an Explorer Pass valid for 3 days or 7 days.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

View learning activities

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.