Saturday, May 12, 2012

No glass demons, but glass angels.

On Thursday I finished the current round of edits of my new book Silent Saturday, so I decided I would award myself a morning off on Friday and drive over to Dunning. There is a very old church there, St. Serf's, which is only open for part of the year. Last time I went, it was still closed for the winter, but looked tantalisingly interesting, so I had been promising myself for ages that when I had time I would go back and see the interior. Simple pleasures...
St.Serf's is no longer a "living" church; it is managed by Historic Scotland because it houses the ancient Dupplin Cross, a Pictish carved cross dating to around 800AD. It has many intriguing features, not the least of which is the bizarre t-shaped layout of the church. Originally it was a more conventional rectangle but later in its history it was extended to accommodate more worshippers. Wooden galleries were added which make it quite difficult to make out the original lines of the architecture.
The church has a fine Romanesque bell-tower but sadly you cannot go up it! Not even the church guide is allowed to; it is unsafe. (I would have gone up anyway if allowed!!) The guide was however kind enough to unlock the door so that I could at least take a peep at the inside of the tower (bell-towers are a bit of a "thing" with me, since I started work on my current trilogy - they appear in several of the books). The stairs were extremely worn and narrow, with no hand-rail - although there are hand holds carved into the stone. The oddest thing was the roof of the staircase, which is very crude and unfinished. I had never seen that before.
One of the lovely features of the church is its Victorian stained glass windows by Ballantine & Gardiner. Normally I am not very fond of Victorian glass - I'm much more interested in the older stuff, when I can find it. But these windows are gorgeous. I've posted a couple of pics of one of them. This window shows an old warrior who has finally laid down his sword. The sword lies under the feet of the pictured angels, and his scabbard, which hands at his waist, is empty. I love the old man's very weary but calm face. I found this window very moving. Who knows? Perhaps I'll manage to weave him into a future book!

A big thank you to Mr. Garry Malcolm, who showed me round the church. If you want to see more pictures of St. Serf'S, there is a whole album on my Facebook churches page at  Note, this is a historical interest page, not a religious page.

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