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Roman Catholic Church Of Our Lady And St Finnan, Glenfinnan

A Category B Listed Building in Caol and Mallaig, Highland

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Latitude: 56.8714 / 56°52'17"N

Longitude: -5.4416 / 5°26'29"W

OS Eastings: 190352

OS Northings: 780832

OS Grid: NM903808

Mapcode National: GBR DBYK.G6N

Mapcode Global: WH0D8.DK05

Plus Code: 9C8PVHC5+H9

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church Of Our Lady And St Finnan, Glenfinnan

Listing Name: Glenfinnan, Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Finnan and Belfry.

Listing Date: 5 October 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 330516

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB309

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200330516

Location: Arisaig and Moidart

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Caol and Mallaig

Parish: Arisaig And Moidart

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Tagged with: Church building

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Edward Welby Pugin, 1873-4. Symmetrical 5-bay nave and aisle Gothic church, with lower chancel and single-storey, square-plan porch and tower base to E; prominently set on hillside overlooking Loch Shiel. Squared, coursed and roughly tooled granite with ashlar sandstone dressings, squared and snecked sandstone at 2nd stage of unfinished tower. Chamfered base course, ashlar cill course, ashlar band course at clearstorey, corbelled eaves course, elaborate cross apex finials to gables. Large geometric-traceried rose window to N; pointed-arch openings, predominantly chamfered cills and hoodmoulding, some label-stops. Buttressed aisles and angled buttresses to chancel and tower.

N ELEVATION: statue of St Michael and the serpent within elaborately carved niche below moulded string course with stops. Lancet at apex. Double gabled sacristy to left, with timber boarded door to left. Traceried rose window to flanking gables of chapel and sacristy. Apex finials to gables.

E ELEVATION: traceried aisle windows; cusped lancet clearstorey windows. Porch and tower base to right; 2-leaf, vertically boarded entrance timber door set within moulded pointed arch surround; blind trefoil carvings above entrance door and below moulded string course. Sacristy in re-entrant angle between porch and chancel. Geometic traceried window to chancel.

S ELEVATION: 2-leaf timber entrance doors to centre, with elaborate cast-iron door furniture, all set within pointed arched opening, with hoodmoulding including carved floral label-stops. Large geometric-traceried window over entrance with moulded and banded ashlar cill course, hoodmoulding and label-stops. Lancet at apex. Traceried lancet windows to lean-to (aisle) gables.

W ELEVATION: mirror of E elevation, with exception of porch.

Variety of glazing, some original, later stained glass to rose window (see NOTES). Steeply pitched slate roof; ashlar coped skews and carved gablet skewputts, ridge brattishing to chancel. Pyramidal lead-sheeted roof to tower base. Original cast-iron rainwater goods with decorative gutters, some decorative hoppers.

INTERIOR (seen 2011): aisle separated from nave by polished granite shafted columns with carved foliate sandstone capitals supporting moulded pointed arch arcade; original plaster relief Stations of the Cross between aisle windows, those to sacristy later removed. Rendered and painted walls; moulded string course below clearstorey; moulded corbels supporting pointed arched 'scissors' roof truss with small iron Jacobite roses at springing point. Tall Gothic chancel arch with engaged slender sandstone cluster column and carved foliate capital. Timber gallery over entrance with plain balustrade accessed by narrow spiral staircase with timber boarded balustrade. Octagonal font with low cluster column and quatrefoil decoration to holder, carved pyramidal crocketted timber font. Original timber pews. Original elaborately carved altar, later moved to Lady Chapel. Modern timber altar from local church; simple panelled reredos circa 1975. Wrought iron screen to sacristy circa 1975. 2-leaf timber and glazed door to porch; timber boarded door between porch and sacristy with small square opening (possibly confession).

BELFRY: circa 1980 low timber belfry to E with clay pantiled pitched roof. Large cast-iron bell with inscription (see NOTES).

Statement of Interest

Place of worship in use as such. The RC Church of Our Lady and St Finnan is a prominent and well-detailed Gothic church by architect, Edward Welby Pugin, and a major example of a Roman Catholic Church in the area. The church is prominently sited on the hillside at the head of Loch Shiel, offering uninterrupted views of the loch. The building retains much of its original high quality Gothic detailing such as geometric-traceried windows and carved finials, skew putts and stops. This detailing is continued internally in the design of the baptismal font, distinctive pews and scissor roof truss. Foliage is a prominent theme in the carvings. Roses, thistles, figs and acorns are depicted in the capitals of the columns separating the nave and aisles and the stops to the south entrance door depict shamrocks and thistles representing the transfer of faith from Ireland to Scotland.

The church of Our Lady and St Finnan was funded by the MacDonalds of Glenaladale, the last lairds of Glenfinnan. The MacDonald family were loyal supporters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and during the Jacobite rising in 1745-6 members of the family accompanied the Prince in his flight from the government forces following the defeat at Culloden. Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale funded the construction of the nearby Glenfinnan monument (see separate listing) to commerate the clansmen who fought and died. Captain John Glenaladale organised the first Highland mass emigrations to Prince Edward Island in 1771-2, funded by the sale of his estate.

The family were unable to complete the church to Pugin's original designs. The bell, on its arrival from Dublin, was considered to be too large and the belltower was never completed, The stone for its construction was placed in the grounds of the church. The bell is inscribed "THOMAS SHERIDAN & CO EAGLE FOUNDRY DUBLIN 1875" and "BENEDICITE MONTES ET COLLES MARIE ET FLUMINA DOMINO" (Mountains and hills and rivers, bless the Lord Mary). The stained glass window was added 1995-6, and was designed by Ormsby of Scarisbrick after sketches by Fr. Callum MacNeill. The window was funded by Mr and Mrs Louis Gordon, a descendant of the Glenaladales, who wished to see the window completed before his death.

Edward Welby Pugin was the eldest son of the internationally renowned Gothic architect AWN Pugin. EW Pugin was brought up in his father's office and founded the architectural practice of Pugin and Pugin. Following the death of his father in 1852, he completed his outstanding commissions undertaking revisions in his father's style. In 1856 he was appointed additional assessor in the Lille Cathedral competition. Thereafter he began working in an individualistic French and Flemish Gothic style, often with strong polychromatic effects. He designed a number of Roman Catholic churches in Scotland including the St Stephen's RC Church, Blairgowie (1856) and St Mary's RC Chapel, Haddington (1862) (see separate listings). The RC Church of Our Lady and St Finnan is one of Pugin's last buildings in Scotland before his death in 1875.

(List description updated 2012).

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