Sunday……. So Off to Church


Our Lady of Kazan, Zelenogorsk, Russia

Zelenogorsk is on the Gulf of Finland just north of St. Petersburg.  The church was built in 1915 when this area was part of the Grand Duchy of Finland.  In terms of churches it is not that old. None the less in its short life it has seen much turbulence of wars and revolution …and in that time suffered the consequences of such violent actions.

After the Soviet Army invaded during WW2 the church was used as a warehouse.

Today you would be hard pressed visualise such times as  Our Lady of Kazan, which is an Russian Orthodox Church, was renovated in the 1970’s to much of its former glory.


To say the interior is lavish is perhaps an understatement.  It is a mix of gold and brass which helps display the enormous collection of historic Icons that are on display.

The church was re-consecrated in 1990  and once again a place of regular worship.

For a church that has endured such violence and turmoil it setting is surprisingly tranquil….surround by tall trees on the edge of a woodland area Our Lady of Kazan is set in the perfect Zelenogorsk setting…


3rd December

(C) David Oakes 2017


Silent Sunday…… So off to Church


Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey, or to give it its Sunday name “Saint Marys Abbey” can be found in one of the most idyllic settings of any Abbey.  Above the banks of the River Tweed and in the shadow of the Eildon Hills the Cistercian Monks who founded the Abbey in 1136 chose the location well.  Built under the instruction of King David I of Scotland it became an important religious and civic centre for many centuries.

Like so many others, Melrose Abbey did see much conflict. Being in the heart of the Scottish Border country (in Roxburghshire) it did not, perhaps could not, escape involvement in the constant Scottish/England  power struggles…but perhaps it was Oliver Cromwell assault during the Civil Wars of the 16th Century that brought an end to monastic life at Melrose.

No visitor to the Scottish Borders should miss the opportunity to visit Melrose, whilst the town itself has much to enjoy, it is the peaceful location of the Abbey that demands a pause to reflect and enjoy.

5th November

(C) David Oakes 2017


Silent Sunday….So off to Church


Ardgour Parish Church, North Corran

As you travel round the Highlands of Scotland you can find numerous old, many ruined, Churches, Chapels, Kirks, and ancient places of worship.  With all the ruins about you could be forgiven if you thought the Highlanders had given up religion.

Nothing would be further from the truth.  Now I am not talking about the towns and Cities not even the numerous villages that all have many more than just one place of worship. As you travel round the Highlands you come across fairly modern churches away from a centre of population.  They all seem well kept by obviously proud congregations, a congregation that must be from a wide country community.

Ardgour Parish Church  may not be one of the remotest that we have found, but still located well away from hustle and bustle of life. Located on the western shore of Loch Linnhe it is part of the wider parish of Ardgour, Morvern and Strontian.

The exterior is of local granite with a slate roof, built in1829, simple in design in what is known as the Parliamentary Style.

The interior appears much more modern….


In fact the interior was installed in 1931.  A curved wooden ceiling lowers the height and a magnificent carved wood Alter and Screen below a simple stained glass window give the interior a distinctive design and then the colour choice of yellow adds light to whole interior.

Off the beaten track maybe…. but well cared for and many signs that the church is well attended.  The care extends to the graveyard that surrounds the church far better maintained than so many of our churches in our towns and cities.

But what better way can there be than when leaving the Church you are greeted with a wonderful view down the Loch towards Ben Nevis…



22nd October

(C) David Oakes 2017

Silent Sunday…. So Off to Church


Saint Mary’s Church, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye

The west coast of Scotland is littered with the ruins of Churches (perhaps best named Chapels).  St. Mary’s Church at Dunvegan is typical of many such once important places of worship. Locations near the coast is a significant clue as to when and why they were built in this far flung places. It was in the 6th century that Saint Columba arrived on the Isle of Iona and set up a religious community that still exists today. So it is no surprise that Pilgrims from Iona , just a short distance across the sea, found their way to the west coast of Scotland.  There were of course many other peoples from other countries to this part of Scotland…. some settled, others stayed for awhile.

Standing on a high mound above the village of Dunvegan, surrounded by a stone wall, St. Mary’s is still a very notable feature of the landscape.

DSC_7949_00001bbSt. Marys is surrounded by a burial ground that tells many stories of the peoples of Dunvegan now long gone. But step inside the ruined Church and you find many more Memorial stones and Crosses.  Like many of the Churches that fell in to disuse and disrepair they took on an additional roll. St. Mary’s like others became a safe custodian of these stones that were brought here for safety.

Highland Churches like this may well be ruins, but are still important historical links to not just the communities past but to the foundations of the Country. Whilst many of the memorials are tributes to Clan Members, others are to peoples from many countries who ventured forth, found themselves in this part of the world, settled and helped shape the countries future.

Why so many ruins…. there is no one reason.  Larger places of Worship were often needed, then of course we had Clan disputes and much later divisions within the Scottish Church. Once a building fell into disuse the ravages of time and weather caused the Heather Thatched Roofs to collapse…. so with no roof any intentions of restoration was probably thought too daunting.  But the walls still stand firm.


Post Script….. I personally find it strange that today there appears to be dislike to peoples from other countries that seek to share our lives in our communities and countries.

Yet we only have to look back at our own histories and recognise the very wide variety of cultures and peoples from far away that have created and shaped the very country we now enjoy.

Just a thought

15th October

(C) David Oakes 2017





Silent Sunday…So off to a Church again


The Macmillan Cross

The day had turned grey and a damp Scottish mist had descended as we drove down the Knapdale Peninsular in Argyll. The peninsular extends like a finger into the Atlantic point towards Ireland.  We knew there was an old Chapel to be found at the point and sure enough there it was Kilmory Knap Chapel…..looking all the world like many other Highland Chapels roofless and partly ruined.


The big surprise was to be found inside.  This Christian Chapel dates back to 13c, but as the area has a religious history that pre dates that, in some place going back to neo lithic times, this Chapel was possibly built on an earlier religious site. It stopped becoming a place of worship when it fell into disrepair and lost its roof. After that it became a place of Burial Enclosure….and that is the clue as you step inside the ruin.

Thankfully some forward thinking individuals had the inspiration to install an inverted glass roof to protect the body of the Chapel and an important collection of over 30 carved Burial Stones and standing in place of honour is the carved Celtic Macmillan Cross of the Knapdale Macmillan Clan.

The Stones were found either within the Chapel or the surrounding grounds. The stones are carved in a variety of styles, some obviously carved with Celtic influences others ornate carvings of familiar images whilst others are more symbolic.  Historians suggested that these memorial stones were created to represents the individuals wealth within their community with some of the stones having been commissioned on the Island of Iona and transport to Kilmory.

There are helpful notes in the Chapel to help you interpret the history of each stone.  This is a large collection of Burial stones, but carved stones like these, whilst not common are not unfamiliar to the Knapdale and Kilmartin region of Argyll. Click the link to read more about Kilmartin and its stones :-

Not all burials in this graveyard are of the wealthy and some simpler crosses have been recovered…


Kilmory Chapel may well be a bleak and lonely location but it is far from being an empty shell.


8th October

(C) David Oakes 2017