St Magnus Cathedral
Open Mon – Sat
Broad Street, Kirkwall
T: 01856 874894
Welcome to St Magnus Cathedral
The Light in the North
St Magnus Cathedral was founded in 1137, and is of international significance. Built from local red and yellow sandstone, the cathedral is mostly Romanesque in style.
It is dedicated to St Magnus, Earl of Orkney in the 12th century, at a time when Orkney was part of the Kingdom of Norway. He was killed on the orders of his cousin and rival Hakon, and many miracles were reported after this death. In 1137 Magnus’s nephew Rognvald began construction of the ‘fine minster’ in honour of his saintly uncle; Magnus’s relics remain interred in a pillar of the choir. The cathedral has stood firm against Reformers, Cromwellian troops and wartime danger, and is the most complete medieval cathedral in Scotland.
What to see
St Magnus Cathedral was founded in 1137, and built from local red sandstone. Its soaring arches and huge round pillars are typical of the Romanesque style, and it is thought there is a connection with the stonemasons who built Durham Cathedral and Dunfermline Abbey.
Scapa Flow, Orkney’s natural harbour, was a busy place during the two World Wars. The cathedral has long been the place where we come to remember our war dead; no memorial is more poignant than that to HMS Royal Oak, sunk in 1939 with the loss of over 800 lives. A bell from the ship hangs in the north choir aisle.
The walls of the cathedral are lined with some fine examples of 17th-century gravestone carvings. The great and the good of Kirkwall were once buried beneath the floor, covered in these magnificent memorials, which feature symbols of ‘memento mori’ in the form of skulls, bones and hourglasses.
Plan your visit
St Magnus Cathedral
Broad Street, Kirkwall KW15 1DH
T: 01856 874894
What Three Words Location
Free Entry, No Booking Necessary
Open: Mon – Sat – 9:00am-1:00pm then 2:00 – 5:00pm
St Magnus Cathedral is open Monday – Saturday. There is no requirement to book, but the cathedral may occasionally be closed for weddings or funerals.
Occasionally there may be some noise disruption due to ongoing conservation works.
The is no limit on numbers but the cathedral staff reserve the right to control access if the cathedral is busy.
Access to the Cathedral is through the main doors on the west end facing onto Broad Street.
The Cathedral operates an honesty box shop where you can purchase gifts and mementos of your visit.
There are toilets available to the public, including an accessible cubicle located on the north side of the choir aisle.
There is wheelchair access via the Bishop’s door on the southside of the Cathedral.
A hearing loop is available for concerts and events at St. Magnus Cathedral.
We are supporting the Distance Aware scheme and ask that visitors look out for other visitors and staff members who are displaying the Distance Aware lanyards.
Face masks may be required for upper-level tours, this will be at the guides discretion.
Due to the age and the nature of the building there is low lightning conditions, uneven floors and steps throughout so care should be taken when navigating around.
A Church of Scotland service take place at 11:15 each Sunday. There is no need to book.
To access Sunday worship online, please visit the St Magnus Cathedral congregation Facebook page.
We only allow assistance dogs within the cathedral.
Upper Levels Guided tours are available for St Magnus Cathedral throughout the year. Please see the St Magnus Cathedral Events section (below) for further information and booking details. Alternatively, please call 01856 874 894
Self-guided tours of graveyard – The cathedral is surrounded by an ancient kirkyard, the buried place of Kirkwall people for over 800 years. Arctic explorer John Rae is burial here, alongside many other interesting characters. A graveyard leaflet and self-guided tour is available for a small donation – just ask one of the custodians
Self-guided graffiti tours – In 2019, Orkney Archaeology Society volunteers conducted a survey of all the graffiti and mark-making on the ground floor of the cathedral. Pick up a fascinating leaflet and follow the graffiti trail, from the 12th-century stone masons’ marks, to the names of WWII sailors on ships in Scapa Flow. A torch is recommended.
Cathedral tour app – Explore the cathedral from your own phone or tablet, through our in-house app. Whilst inside St Magnus Cathedral, you can now log on to our digital app, which contains over two hours of information, films, music, and meditations. Details on how to use the app can be found at the cathedral entrance alongside the visitor information and donation point. Headphones will be needed.
If you are a researcher looking to access our stores then please contact us at email@example.com .
If you are a tour organiser or looking to organise a tour of St Magnus cathedral then please get in touch via the email Cathedral@orkney.gov.uk. Entry is free but we would be greatly appreciative of any donations.
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Events & Upper Levels Tours
Your support is vital and helps the Museum to share the collection with the world.
St Magnus Cathedral relies on support from a wide range of sources and there are many ways that you can donate to help care for and preserve the collection for future generations. You can donate as an individual, or through a foundation, trust or company. Your support helps us to do the following:
To learn more about how you can support St Magnus Cathedral