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St Apolinaris' Chapel and burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Inverurie and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.2724 / 57°16'20"N

Longitude: -2.4134 / 2°24'48"W

OS Eastings: 375171

OS Northings: 820270

OS Grid: NJ751202

Mapcode National: GBR X7.MD04

Mapcode Global: WH8NV.WGYR

Entry Name: St Apolinaris' Chapel and burial ground

Scheduled Date: 7 February 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12118

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel

Location: Inverurie

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Inverurie and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises the remains of a chapel, dedicated to St Apolinaris. The first mention of a chapel in the area occurs in 1190, and this chapel appears to date from earlier than the 13th century, indicating it may be the chapel described. The chapel stands within a small area of mature woodland, but no trees are present within the chapel itself. The monument is sited on a terrace on the W bank of the River Don, at a height of around 65m above sea level.

Preserved as a standing monument, the remains of St Apolinaris' chapel lie within a walled burial ground. The walls of the chapel are largely reduced to rubble spreads, although all four sides display lengths of external facing. From these it is clear that the chapel measures around 12.5m ENE-WSW by around 7m transversely. The walls of the chapel stand up to around 1m in height. The interior of the chapel has been cleared out and a low retaining wall of neat rubble and pinning with mortared rubble coping has been constructed. This wall is on a slightly different alignment to the external facing and was built in the 19th century to adapt the space for use as a burial enclosure. The entrance to this enclosure is towards the W end of the S wall, and this may be the site of an original entrance to the chapel. At the E end of the burial enclosure is the large mural monument and tomb of James Gordon of Manar (d. 1874). The tomb's covering slab has been dislodged, which has partially exposed the earth-filled grave beneath. Flanking this monument on the E wall are four smaller 17th-century headstones, two on the north and two on the south. Each of these is about 0.35m wide and 0.5m high. Three of the four bear a simple roll-moulding along the upper edge. The two on the north bear the inscriptions of 'EF. 1662' and 'PF.1666' and one of the S pair is inscribed 'AF.1662'. The fourth stone, the second of the S pair, is inscribed with 'WF' within two concentric rectangles. Towards the centre of the enclosure, a further two tombstones commemorate members of the family of Manar and are dated 1838 and 1850 respectively.

The burial ground surrounding the chapel is roughly rectangular in plan, and is bounded by a wall of rubble and mortar with a stone coping, with an entrance in the N corner. The burial ground is planted with yew, sycamore and elm. There is also a metal post-and-wire fence encircling the burial ground within the exterior wall, dating from at least the early part of the 20th century, as it is mentioned by Simpson in his 1943 description of the site.

The area to be scheduled is sub-rectangular on plan, extending up to and including the boundary wall of the burial ground, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the four 17th-century tombstones, as these are technically portable, and the above-ground elements of the modern fence within the burial ground, to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Rural chapel sites of the medieval period rarely survive in an upstanding form, and this example represents excellent preservation for its class. While the walls are badly denuded, they retain elements of the outer face. The later reuse of the site gives the opportunity to examine the phases of the monument's use. The burial ground around the chapel potentially contains interments associated with one or more of the phases of use of the chapel. In addition, buried deposits surrounding it may reveal valuable information regarding the medieval environment and the people who constructed and used the site. The monument has considerable potential to enhance understanding of the ritual, religious and funerary activity in Strathdon at the time.

Contextual characteristics

This monument has the capacity to contribute to a better understanding of medieval sites in Scotland. The rarity of such monuments means the level of survival of this example presents an excellent opportunity to further our understanding of such monuments and the traditions associated with them. Comparing and contrasting this monument with other examples of its type can give us valuable information on where, how and why the medieval peoples of the area placed such monuments in the landscape. We can use the information gained from the preservation and study of this monument to gain a wider insight into the layout and position within the landscape of medieval monuments throughout Scotland. In addition, the later reuse of the site as a burial ground may provide information on later phases of Christian belief in the area and the continued sacred position of medieval Christian monuments in later generations.

Associative characteristics

St Apol(l)inaris was the first bishop of Ravenna (Italy) and this may be the only dedication to him in Britain, which makes the choice of dedication here in Aberdeenshire particularly interesting. Papal documents of 8 March 1195 mention the chapel, which was also where a charter was signed in 1253. The 19th-century burials may be directly relatable to the nearby farm at Newseat of Manar. This reuse of the monument in relatively recent times also gives the chapel a strong link to the more recent population of the area.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to the understanding of the past, in particular late-medieval chapel sites and ritual practices. The very unusual saint's dedication and contemporary documentary sources reinforce its significance. Surrounding remains may reveal important information about the medieval society that erected the monument, and the role it played in their lives. Spatial analysis of this and other contemporary monuments may reveal valuable information on the layout and patterns of medieval sites within the landscape. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of the construction methods and function of such monuments, the nature of religious activities and practices at the time, and the role and value of rural chapels in following them.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NJ72SE 36. It is recorded in the Aberdeenshire council SMR as NJ72SE0036.


Simpson W D 1949, THE EARLDOM OF MAR: BEING A SEQUEL TO THE PROVINCE OF MAR, 1943, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 13-7.

RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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