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St Ethernan's,Rathen old parish church

A Scheduled Monument in Fraserburgh and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.6386 / 57°38'18"N

Longitude: -1.9997 / 1°59'58"W

OS Eastings: 400117

OS Northings: 860961

OS Grid: NK001609

Mapcode National: GBR P8FJ.LL1

Mapcode Global: WH9NG.880J

Entry Name: St Ethernan's,Rathen old parish church

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1993

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5810

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Rathen

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Fraserburgh and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument consists of the remains of St Ethernan's, the old parish church of Rathen. The present edifice dates from the seventeenth century and occupies the site of an earlier church, first on record as a parsonage between 1207 and 1228.

The church was dedicated to St Ethernan (Eddran), the early Christian saint who is said to have consecrated a church at "Rethin" in the sixth century. The present church occupying the site bears the date 1633 on its S aisle. The remains of the main part of the church consist of the intact W gable, part of the S wall and a round-arched opening (partly blocked) to the S aisle. The building measures 7.8m N-S and has been at least 20m from E-W over walls 0.8m thick.

The W gable has a shouldered-arched doorway below a semi-circular headed window with roll-moulded jambs. The aisle, originally crowstepped, is dated 1633 and projects 10.45m from the S wall. In the W wall of the aisle is a round-arched doorway with a draw-bar hole. Above the door is a panel with the inscription, "Alexander Fraser of Philorth, Patron", a coat of arms and part of a broken inscription. In the E wall of the aisle is an ogee-headed aumbry, and a rectangular recess, probably a piscina to the S of it.

The lower skewputt stones on the aisle are carved: that on the W with a human face, the E one with a ram's head. The walls of the nave are rubble-built but much of the upper part of the church was probably rebuilt when a new bellcote was added in 1782. A diamond shaped sundial (1625) which probably fell from the S wall of the aisle has been fixed to the W wall of the main body of the church.

The area to be scheduled is rectangular, extending 2m from the exterior walls of the church and measuring a maximum of 22.25m N-S by 24m E-W, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as it is a good example of a late medieval church, the last of a succession of ecclesiastical buildings occupying this site. A church has been documented here from the thirteenth century, when Richard, parson of Rathen, is recorded as a witness to charters by Adam, Bishop of Aberdeen, between 1207 and 1228. The benefice of Rathyn was given to the Chapter and College of Canons of St Machar's Cathedral by Robert I in 1328.

A chapel is traditionally thought to have been consecrated in the late sixth century by St Ethernan from whom the place derives its name. The building and its underlying archaeology are a valuable resource which through a combination of excavation and analysis may increase our understanding of the spread of the early Christian church, ecclesiastical architecture, and episcopal and secular patronage in Scotland during the Middle Ages and earlier.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NK 06 SW 5.


Eeles, F. C. and Clouston, R. W. M. (1957-8) 'The church and other bells of Aberdeenshire. Part II', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, Vol. 91, 100.

MacGibbon D. and Ross T. (1894) 'The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland', vol. 3, 604-6.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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