A religious establishment has been present in Brechin for at least 1,000 years as indicated by the Pictish round tower. It would have once stood alone but close by there was a church of the Celtic order. Today it is built into the fabric of the medieval cathedral.
In the middle ages the religious community was small. It comprised of a Bishop, Dean, Precentor, Chancellor, Treasurer, Archdeacon and 6 canons. Each of the office bearers had his own house and garden within the Cathedral precincts although the canons had to share a house. This layout is still well preserved in the modern town.
A small town began to grow up immediately to the north of the cathedral and this eventually became an ecclesiastical burgh with the right to hold a weekly market on Sunday and other trading privileges.
The oldest part of the cathedral is the Pictish round tower which is about 1,000 years old. It is Irish in style and was probably built by Irish masons who built a detached stone church nearby. Brechin was endowed by the Irish wife of King Kenneth II who built a church and tower. This church was to become the mother church of Angus and the Mearns and was in the tradition of the Celtic church.
Brechin Cathedral stained glass window
The effect of the David I’s Normanisation of Scotland in the 12th century were felt in Brechin. The Celtic monks were replaced by a chapter of Roman canons. They built a new cathedral which has been added to and changed over the centuries. After the Reformation it became the parish church. The Bishop’s Palace became the minister’s manse while the other houses declined into ruin. By the seventeenth century most were described as ruinous.
The cathedral underwent major renovations in 1900-1901 and was restored to its medieval proportions. Much of the stained glass windows were reinstated over the next century. It provides a wonderful chronology of this art form in the 20 th century . The glorious windows range from designs by Edward Burne-Jones to modern artists such as William Wilson.
The surrounding kirkyard has many interesting gravestones including a stone commemorating a visitation of the plague which devastated the town in the 17th century.
© Angus Council 1998 - 2012