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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 644019

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


HY30SW 1.00 33494 04429

(HY 3349 0445) Circular Church (NR) (Remains of)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

HY30SW 1.01 HY 3349 0445 Stone: rune-inscribed


Scottish Record Office

Repair of the Kirk and Manse which are becoming ruinous. Request from the Heritors to the Earl of Morton for money from vacant stipends to be applied to this purpose

1741 GD 150/1894

Rebuilding of the Church and Churchyard wall.

Note of the cost which amounts to £312.13. 7 1/4.

1829 GD 217/1114

(Undated) information in NMRS.

The remains of a Romanesque Church, dedicated to St Nicholas, which has been circular on plan with an E apse, stands at the E end of the now demolished parish church. It is unique in Scotland as having been built after the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, through Scandinavian prototypes, and it can be dated between AD 1090 and 1160. A reference under the year 1136 in the 'Orkneyinga Saga', mentions this church, although Wainwright argues that the writer may have been describing the church as he knew it about a century later. Wainwright would also place the erection of the church after 1100 on comparison with three, very similar, churches at Praha (Prague).

H Scott 1928; RCAHMS 1946; V G Childe and W D SImpson 1961; F W Wainwright 1962.

A medieval grave-slab, probably dating from the late 14th century or the 15th century but later re-used in the 17th century, was found underground in the graveyard a good many years ago and is now preserved in the modern church.

It is not quite complete and what is left of it is fractured. The present dimensions are 5'9" long, 1'9" wide at the top and 10 1/2" wide at the foot. It bears a Latin cross with a base of three steps. On the left of cross-shaft is a sword and on the right side is the inscription RR DIE(D) 1642. At the head of the cross is incised a central hole within a circle, which may be an original feature, but the inscription and the rudely-cut skull at the base are clearly later additions.

RCAHMS 1946.

The remains of St Nicholas's Church are as illustrated. The course of the wall of the nave has been delineated by a gravel path.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RL), 8 May 1966.

The modern church was demolished in 1953 and the present whereabouts of the slab is not known. Johnston thinks it may have been removed by the IAM. (This information from Mr J Halcro Johnston, Orphir House).

Visited by OS (AA), 25 May 1973.

Scheduled with HY30SW 2 as 'Earl's Bu, Norse settlement and mill, Orphir'.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 29 February 1996.

'The Orkney Herald' in 1902 mentions the proposal to excavate the site.

M Howe 2006.

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