Effectively redundant from the time of the Reformation in 1560, this magnificent sandstone monument was little used during the next 100 years and was virtually abandoned thereafter.
Gradually parts of the structure collapsed as a result of unchecked decay, and it was not until the early 19th century that Elgin Cathedral received the respect it deserved as a fine piece of medieval architecture.
The first church was erected on this site during the early part of the 13th century although, possibly as a result of a fire, this was extensively re-built and enlarged towards the end of that century. Severely damaged by the 'Wolf of Badenoch' in 1390 when he burnt the cathedral, Elgin underwent a major period of reconstruction throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.
Now standing as one of the most glorious ruins in Scotland it is quite unbelievable to think that this vast church, so ornately decorated with such skill, was in use for a mere three centuries. Such an imposing entrance through the processional doorway, flanked by the massive west towers, still commands the visitor to enter and explore the remains of this most noble house of God.
Sadly, nothing substantial has survived of the nave apart from a pair of lancet windows that formerly lit one of the south aisle chapels.
The most complete section of the first church is the external wall of the south transept, which presents a busy picture of slender pointed windows, a curious oval window above a gabled doorway, and a higher level of round-headed windows. Unquestionably the most splendid remains of Elgin Cathedral are those at the east end of the church where decorative moulding, traceried windows, blind arcading, and a virtually complete clerestory can be seen in their full glory. Unusual buttress towers with embellished pinnacles contain the east gable arrangement of a large rose window set above two levels of lancets.
Internally some richly decorated tombs and carved effigys remain in the vaulted choir chapels. Yet even more beautiful is the 15th century octagonal Chapter House, with its large traceried windows and it's magnificent vaulted ceiling that springs from a central clustered column. Apart from the monastic Chapter House at Incholm Abbey, this eight-sided spectacle at Elgin Cathedral is unique in Scotland.
Located on the edge of town, just a few miles inland from the Moray coast, and resting beside the River Lossie, these exquisite ruins are certainly a highlight of this area. Many thanks are due to the forward thinking and sheer hard work of that 19th century cobbler who began to re-discover the lost beauty of this cathedral.
Wolf of Badenoch
The son of King Robert II, he was one of the most blackest, most evil character in Scotland's history. Alexander Stewart, was better know as the Wolf of Badenoch.
The times in which he lived were barbarous, but even by their standards he stood out, and was feared over a considerable distance.
Throughout his life he was Lord of Badenoch around 1371, Earl of Buchanan and was also his brother's royal deputy in the north of Scotland.
The Wolf ruled the lands of Badenoch in a cruel way, burning the homes of those who crossed or displeased them. Taking labour and goods way beyond any reason, but went too far when he seized the lands of Alexander Barr, Bishop of Moray. For this he was excommunicated.
His wife, Countess of Ross, was deserted by him. His wife appealed to the Bishop of Moray, who unfortunately for him, gave judgement in her favour.
The Wolf was outraged. All out for revenge, he came down from his stronghold, the castle of Lochindorb and ransacked and burned Forres and Elgin. Elgin of course, being the ecclesiastical centre of the Bishopric of Moray. Setting off fires, mainly in the College, the Canon's houses and the Hospital of the Maison Dieu, he terrified the people of Elgin, forcing them to flee with their families into the countryside.
In 1390 he burned Elgin Cathedral, destroying many of its records including family, legal and monastic - irreplaceable. A terrible loss.
The Wolf was called upon by his father to do penance for this heinous crime. This he did under the watchful eye of his father the King, nobles and many dignitaries of the church. The King, believing that his son had learnt his lesson, finally pardoned him, and his was received back into the Church. Unfortunately, his repentance was superficial.
Throughout his reign he extended and reinforced his castles at Loch-an-Eilein and Lochindorb, and yet hardly changed Castle Roy at Nethy Bridge.
Legend has it that The Wolf of Badenoch died in 1394, although others maintain is was in 1406, when it is believed that he played chess with the devil. He had been visited at Ruthven Castle by a man, who was tall, and dressed in black. The man wished to play a game of chess with the Wolf. The game went on for several hours until the tall, darkly dressed man moved one of the chess pieces and called 'check' and then 'checkmate'. The man rose from the table. On calling these words there was a terrible storm of thunder, hail and lightening. The storm continued through the night until silence befell the castle in the morning. In that morning silence, it was then that the Wolf's men were discovered outside the castle walls, dead and blackened as if they had all been struck by the lightening. The Wolf was found in the banqueting hall, and although his body appeared unmarked, the nails in his boots had all been torn out.
The funeral procession was held two days later, led by the Wolf's coffin. Terrible storms started over and over again as the coffins were added to the procession. It was only after the Wolf's coffin was carried to the back of the procession did the storms cease. The storms did not return.
The Wolf of Badenoch was not buried locally, but is buried in Dunkeld Cathedral.