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Bishop Clement

The man who shaped the cathedral of St Blane and St Lawrence in Dunblane as we know it today was Bishop Clement, who was elected in 1233. Until that time the diocese lay in an impoverished state- its income had been misappropriated by the leading laymen, and its church buildings were in a state of disrepair. The enterprising Clement obtained approval from Pope Gregory IX to reform the diocese, and then initiated a series of major improvements to the cathedral.

As Clement set about his task with gusto, he decided that only the 12th-century free-standing tower of the existing building should be retained and then set within new walls. There were to be two quite distinct parts to the building, the choir for the clergy and the nave for
the laity. In addition to the principal parts of the church, accommodation was needed for several other purposes. It was also decided that a number of buildings extraneous to the cathedral, including residences for all the cathedral clergy, should be built. Luckily, one of these has survived, to the southeast, and it has been splendidly restored as a museum by the Society of Friends of Dunblane Cathedral.

St Blane and St Lawrence passed through a stormy period at the time of the Reformation, the ultimate result of which was that the nave lost its roof and was left to ruination, while the buildings and property of the cathedral passed to the Crown. The choir was the only part that remained roofed, being taken over for use as the parish church. The present complete state of the cathedral is the result of a series of restorations, culminating in the re-roofing of the nave between 1889 and 1893.

Points to look out for include the 12th-century tower, which stood on the site before Clement started his new cathedral. This tower was constructed as a free-standing erection of four storeys, although it was progressively heightened by two additional storeys and a parapet in the later Middle Ages. The last of these additions bears the arms of Chisholm, probably Bishop James Chisholm (1487-1526).

The west front, too, with its triplet of traceried windows, and richly-moulded processional entrance doorway, is a magnificent design that probably dates from around the third quarter of the 13th century. Examples of the finely-carved choir stalls designed by Sir Robert Lorimer have survived and been placed within the sanctuary and at the west end of the nave. They are a most rare survival in our country.

Among other features of interest within the nave are a variety of carved stone fragments, an early Christian cross possibly dating from the 8th century and three effigies. A restored tomb recess containing a 13th-century effigy of a bishop is also worthy of particular attention. It was probably intended for Bishop Clement, since such a location was often chosen as the last resting place for the founder of a church.

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