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Fortrose Cathedral

Fortrose Cathedral

The ruined red-sandstone cathedral at Fortrose, Scotland, which lies off the High Street but at the heart of the town, is a fragment of past glory. Founded by David I (1124- 53) for the See of Ross, the cathedral dates from 1255-6, when building began. The existing remains are the south aisle of the nave and the nearby sacristy or undercroft of the chapter house, which dates from the 13th century. The south nave aisle is in the decorated Gothic style, while the other parts are in the Perpendicular style, like Melrose Abbey.

Fortrose Cathedral was not completed until 1485 by Abbot Fraser, a monk from Melrose. Among the ruins there is still some fine detail. The monument in the north nave, much mutilated, is the canopied tomb of Euphemia, countess of Ross who built the aisle about the year 1395. Euphemia, who succeeded Earl William in 1372, had an eventful life. First married to Walter Leslie in 1366, she was widowed sixteen years later. She then married Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, he who was responsible for burning down the towns of Forres and Elgin, as well as Elgin's great cathedral. Close by the tomb of Euphemja is a later, poorer monument to a bishop. To the northeast of the cathedral is the detached chapter-house, in which can be found a sedilia (seating used by officiating clergy).

An arched compartment at the west end of the cathedral is walled off as the burial ground of the Mackenzie earls of Seaforth, who had strong Jacobite allegiances, having first persecuted Covenanters in the 17th century. The Earl supported the Stewarts during the first major rebellion and as a result unfortunately lost his estates in 1716 together with the title.

At Fortrose, history and legend intertwine. When Ruaridh Mor 'the best Gael in Scottish Gaeldom in his time' died in 1626 he was buried at Fortrose. Following this, Kenneth Mackenzie, 'Coinneach Odhar', the Brahan Seer of the Mackenzies of Seaforth, prophesied that the graveyard would one day overflow.  Since then, local custom held that if a wedding ever took place in the graveyard of Fortrose many would die as a result. In August 1975 a local girl married an English naval officer in the graveyard, according to the rites of the Episcopal Church, and immediately afterwards, so they say, the number of deaths in the locality increased by a remarkable number.

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