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OUR LADY OF THE

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

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ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

INVERURIE

A:BRIEF HISTORY:

The family of Leslie of Balquhain leased Aquhorties Farm (near Burnhervie) in 1799 to the priest-training college founded at Scalan (Glenlivet) in 1714. When the college moved again (this time to Blairs [South Deeside]) in 1829, the college staff continued to minister to the Roman Catholics in our area until about 1848. Only then was young Mr. Charles Tochetti sent to this area, where he immediately began fund-raising for a church building in Inverurie, completed in 1852.

The architect is thought to be James Kyle, himself a student and later a staff-member at Aquhorties, whose family owned Binghill House in Milltimber. As Bishop Kyle he was head of the Roman Catholic Northern District of Scotland (from Shetland to the River Dee.)

                    B. DEDICATION:

The Church is dedicated to Mary, or as she is more usually called in the Roman Catholic tradition, Our Lady, under the title of The Immaculate Conception. Contrary to what is often thought (even by some Roman Catholics) this title does not refer to the birth of Christ but to the birth of Mary herself Roman Catholic teaching is that Mary, from the very beginning of her existence, that is, from her conception, was kept free from (all kinds of) sinfulness. A solemn pronouncement of this teaching by the Pope in 1854 (just two years after this church was completed) made the Immaculate Conception a topical subject then and may have influenced the choice of dedication in Inverurie.

The dedication to Mary almost certainly explains the blue and white theme in the windows, and the fleur-de-lys pattern which can still be discerned under the later paint on some parts of the interior walls.

                    C. ALTERATIONS:

The interior was originally very different from what we see today: -

a. there was a balcony or choir-loft across the rear wall, adding seating for thirty or forty. (In the mid-1800’s the total capacity was given as 160 seats). The balcony was removed in the 1950’s when it had become structurally dangerous;

b. there was no central passage or aisle: a narrow passage ran along each side wall, and the pews (benches) stretched unbroken across the centre. Indeed, examination shows that the existing pews have been made from these longer ones simply by sawing them in half!

c. The present ceiling, much less steeply sloping than the actual roof of the church, was added in the 1950’s, partly at least to reduce the volume of space needing to be heated;

d. the chancel - the narrower section behind the altar (or communion) table - was originally (as in almost all Roman Catholic churches until the 1960’s) separated from the main section of the church by a rail with a central gate, with the altar-table set against the back wall (in the arrangement still to be seen in St. Mary’s Episcopal church at the other end of the town.) This alteration dates from the late 1960’s when Roman Catholic services changed a great deal and became much more ‘user-friendly’, for example by adopting English (or Gaelic, where appropriate) in place of Latin.

e. the door to the left of the altar-table, now a cupboard, gave access to a little room known as the confessional, with a screen to give anonymity by shielding the ‘penitent’ confessing sins from the ‘confessor’ sitting beyond the screen and ‘hearing confessions.’ Roman Catholics (including priests themselves, by the way!) still confess in this way, but much more often with both seated comfortably in a kind of interview-room without a screen, but with confidentiality assured.

DETAIL

a. CIRCULAR WINDOW:

this modern window, of thick glass pieces with rough-hewn surfaces set in a heavy (here, concrete) matrix, shows a dove-shape, representing the Holy Spirit, and around the circumference has the Latin words

+LARGIRE+DONA+SPIRITUS+ meaning BE GENEROUS WITH THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.

b. TALL WINDOWS:

recently restored by the specialist firm Jennifer Jane Stained Glass, these windows have their panes set in zinc frames.

c. STATUE:

this modern statue of Our Lady, kept inside the building, replaces an older and more traditional statue in plaster, which formerly stood in the niche (or "grotto") outside, but was apparently irresistible for passers-by tempted to target-practice! In earlier years there were also other statues, of other saints, inside the building.

d. STATIONS OF THE CROSS:

round three of the walls hang small framed pictures representing the fourteen scenes traditionally selected from the Gospel accounts of Christ’s walk to His death on Calvary Hill carrying His cross. Nearly all Roman Catholic churches have these "Stations of the Cross" (also called "The Way of the Cross") though the artistic medium may differ - mosaic, paintings, reliefs, etc.

e. CRUCIFIX:

it would be a very strange Roman Catholic church which had no crucifix - that is, no representation of Christ hanging upon the Cross. Our crucifix, however, is unusual in combining a number of aspects usually kept separate: Christ is shown on the cross but also as King (crowned) and as Priest (in the vestments worn by a Roman Catholic priest celebrating Mass). In addition, the symbols of the four Evangelists (the Gospel-writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ) are attached to the four extremities of the cross.

 

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Published Papillon Publishing at 3.50

ISBN 1-9016920-3-5

 

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