The Portal July 2018 - Page 7

THE P RTAL July 2018 Page 7 The once great Cathedral, Monastery and Parish Church at Whithorn Jackie Ottaway and Ronald Crane tell of their visit to Galloway  W e made our way north to Galloway in South West Scotland. Most people in the UK know about Iona and Saint Columba. Elsewhere in this edition of T he P ortal our colleague, Eliza Trebelcock, tells about her visit to that iconic Island. But: we did not know about the much more ancient Christian history of Galloway. Today, Galloway is remote from centres of power and population. Stranraer maybe the port for the ferry to Ireland, but which of us knows much about the towns of Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright or the Scottish Wigtown? The rich history of the land to the north of the Solway Firth was as unknown to us as we suspect it might well be to you.   Not so 1,500 years ago, when the shrine of St Ninian in Whithorn, at the heart of Galloway, was a major centre of pilgrimage and had great influence in church and state. If we go back to the early fifth century we find small communities of Christians here. This pre- dates Iona by 200 years. It may be that St Ninian was a local man who travelled to Rome and returned having been ordained Bishop by the Pope. He came to an already existing Christian community that had survived the withdrawal of the Roman Legions about 410AD.  Bede tells us that Ninian converted the southern Picts, who lived in what is now Fife and Tayside. He died peacefully at Whithorn in 432AD, and was buried in the church he had built. His Feast Day is 16 th September. Historical records for this period are scarce indeed, but the archaeological evidence is undoubted. The Christian Community in Whithorn was trading in luxury goods from the Mediterranean as well as working the land.  St Ninian established his See at Whithorn and dedicated the church to St Martin of Tours. Unusually for the time, Ninian’s church was built of stone rather than timber. It became known as Candida Casa which is loosely translated as White House. Thus became Whithorn – White or Bright House.  Replica of Ancient Cross In an age without secure (let alone metalled) roads, the sea and rivers provided the easiest route for transport. This quickly made Whithorn