Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Bishops celebrate life of St Magnus

Bishops celebrate life of St Magnus
21 July 2017

Three archbishops and nine bishops are about to undertake an historic pilgrimage to Orkney to mark the 900th anniversary of the death of St Magnus.

A series of events will take place from Friday (28 July) and culminate in a Mass at St Magnus Cathedral on Sunday (30 July).

The unique diocesan pilgrimage involves all of the bishops and archbishops from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, as well as bishops from Oslo, Copenhagen and Westminster.

The events are being held as part of Magnus900, a programme of activities celebrating the life of Orkney’s patron saint.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert O.S.B, the Bishop of Aberdeen, said: "I am looking forward greatly to our forthcoming pilgrimage in honour of St Magnus on the 900th anniversary of his martyrdom.

“So do my fellow bishops from Scotland and elsewhere, the local Catholic parish in Kirkwall, and the other pilgrims.

“We are pleased to contribute to the Magnus900 celebrations with which the Council and people of Orkney are marking this year.

“Orkney is a unique and precious place, with a long, rich history. The story of St Magnus is at the heart of that history, as his Cathedral is at the heart of Kirkwall. And he, a brave peace-maker, can still speak to us today."

The events include a walk to the St Magnus Kirk in Birsay along a section of the new St Magnus Way pilgrimage route, and a visit by ferry and on foot to St Magnus Kirk in Egilsay. Services will be held at both churches.

St Magnus was killed in Egilsay by his cousin Haakon. The year of his martyrdom is not known with certainty, but the most probable is 1117.

Magnus was declared a saint about 20 years after his death and several miracles are associated with him.

His nephew, St Rognvald, built St Magnus Cathedral in his memory, starting in 1137.

When ready for consecration, the relics of St Magnus were transferred to the Cathedral, and in 1919 a hidden cavity was found in a column, containing a box with bones including a damaged skull. These are held without (much) doubt to be the relics of St Magnus.

The Bishops and Archbishops taking part are:

  • Bishop Hugh Gilbert - Bishop of Aberdeen.
  • Archbishop Philip Tartaglia - Archbishop of Glasgow.
  • Archbishop Leo Cushley - Archbishop of Edinburgh.
  • Bishop Joe Toal - Bishop of Motherwell.
  • Bishop Stephen Robson - Bishop of Dunkeld.
  • Bishop John Keenan - Bishop of Paisley.
  • Bishop Brian McGee - Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.
  • Bishop William Nolan - Bishop of Galloway.
  • Archbishop Mario Conti - Archbishop Emeritus of Glasgow.
  • Bishop Bernt I Eidsvig - Bishop of Oslo.
  • Bishop Czeslaw Kuzon - Bishop of Copenhagen.
  • Bishop Nicholas Hudson - Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster.

The full itinerary for the diocesan pilgrimage is:

Friday 28 July:

A series of 30 minute talks in the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, on the theme Magnus and his legacy: 19:00 – 21:30 with an interval for tea and coffee.

  • Dr Ben Whitworth - Celebrating St Magnus in Music.
  • Dr Alison Gray - A Light Still Burns.
  • Fran Flett -Hollinrake - The History of St Magnus Cathedral.
  • Rev. Fraser Macnaughton (Orkney Pilgrimage Group) - The St Magnus Way.

Saturday 29 July:

There are two pilgrimages (Egilsay and Birsay) which are taking place independently of each other.

Numbers for the Egilsay pilgrimage will be limited so anyone interested is asked to contact the diocesan office for advice on 01224319154.

Sunday 30 July 14:30 – 16:30:

The main event of the weekend is a Mass in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. The Aberdeen Diocesan Choir will be led by Elizabeth Meiklejohn and accompanied by the Cathedral organist, Heather Rendall.