Aftermath: St Colman's Church

Martin Carver

in Portmahomack

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624416
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670703 | DOI:
Aftermath: St Colman's Church

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  • History and Theory of Archaeology


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The Church of St Colman, nicknamed the “White Church”, is the first historic church in Scotland to be wholly excavated. It gave a sequence of nine main phases. The 8th century church was elusive – it may have survive in a part of one wall; the present building has its origin in the early 12th century, probably when the parish church was created in the reforms of King David on the site of the largely forgotten monastery. In the 13th century the simple rectangular building was lengthened at both ends, an underground crypt constructed at the east end and a belfry at the west. The crypt was thought in the middle ages to house the relics of St Colman of Lindisfarne. In the 15th century the church was burnt down and rebuilt. In the 17th century it was refashioned after the reformation, and a special North Aisle built for the laird and his family. Social difference was accentuated in the 18th century when the rebuilt church had no fewer than five doors for the laird, the minister and the members of various social classes. The church was virtually abandoned in 1843 when the congregation moved to the Free Church. By 1946 old St Colman's was redundant and bought in 1980 by Tarbat Historic Trust for £1. This extraordinary building was thus a theatre portraying the relationships between local people and with their god through the ages.

Keywords: Church archaeology; relic; parish; reformation; disruption

Chapter.  8044 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History and Theory of Archaeology

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