Original features

April 16, 2009

The Chapel of St Salvator at the University of St Andrews is a superb example of Scottish Gothic architecture. It was built in 1450 as part of Bishop James Kennedy's College of the Holy Saviour.

Although an adjacent archway leads into the college court, the main entrance opens on to the street, and the principal chapel of Scotland's oldest university was always intended not just to cater to the spiritual needs of students but also to play a missionary role in the wider world.

St Salvator's is narrow, aisleless and built of squared rubble masonry. It retains much of its original medieval grandeur despite having been marked by history. The founder's tomb, saints' statues and ornate Gothic decoration were all savaged during the Reformation. (On the cobbles outside, the letters PH mark the spot where the 24-year-old Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake in 1528 for being a Protestant.)

The original flat-roofed tower was given a stone spire in the 16th century, and a cloister was added in the mid-19th century. Yet, even today, the chapel remains a focal point for St Andrews University, from which students in scarlet gowns set off every Sunday on a colourful traditional walk along the harbour pier and back.

Send suggestions for this architectural series to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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