ST. NINIANS CHAPEL
The oldest still extant Catholic site in the Enzie is the Churchyard of St.Ninians.
There have been two Churches on thisSite. A report in 1688 states
"In the midst of the country there is a large Chapel built, or rather building, capable to contain 1000 persons, on the old found of St Ninlans Chapel"
It has been described as 80 feet long and 19 feet broad inside the walls, not including the two arms required to make a cross.
The Chapel was built between 1687 and 1688, during a period of tolerance when James 11 was on the throne, and though not quite finished, was in use by September 1688, and continued in use for thirty- seven years. There was a priest appointed to the Chapel up until the death of the 2nd Duke.
In 1725, the Duke of Gordon refused to allow a local presbyterian preacher and his followers access to the Chapel to preach the reformed religion. However they broke in on the Sunday and conducted a service, and when a further service took place the following week, a number of scuffles occured.
In 1728, the 2nd Duke died, and the last use to which the Chapel was put, was when his body lay there, in state, surrounded by many candles; After this and following Culloden, the Chapel fell further into ruin.
In 1787, the slates were removed, and used-in roofing the Chapel at Tynet. This of course hastened the total ruin, and in course of time, nothing was left, but theKeystone from above the door, bearing the date 1687.
In 1883, workmen engaged in taking down the pillars of the previous entrance to the Churchyard, discovered the keystone.
This has now been incorporated in the facade of the Priests chapel at the south east corner of the site.
The Churchyard itself has been carefully preserved and possesses great interest to Scottish Catholics, in that here lie the remains of Bishop Nicholson, the first Vicar Apostolic in Scotland, and that of many members of the Catholic Clergy of Scotland.
Burial Lairs of Clergy
The Churchyard is still used for interments, principally, though not exclusively, of Catholics.
"The parish of Rathven," wrote the Rev.James Stothert, extends about ten miles along the southern shore of the Moray Firth, from the neighbourhood of Cullen, westwards to a small stream called the Burn of Tynet which divides it from the parish of Bellie. Its southern boundary lies in the vicinity of Keith.
This parish includes the greater part of the rural district or Barony known as The Enzie, a tract of country very celebrated in the history of Catholicism in Scotland. for at least two centuries. This situation, and the reason why so many of the population had remained Catholics despite the difficulties presented since the Reformation, was due to the fact that the Gordons, who owned most of the country around, were themselves Roman Catholics.
After the death of the 2nd Duke in 1722, the main support for the old religion passed to that branch of the Gordon family, who were the Lairds of nearby Letterfourie House, and who were to prove great benefactors to the Church in the Enzie.
The parish of Rathven, has, in fact since the beginning of the 17th century, not only given many priests,but no fewer than eight Bishops to the R.C.Church.