Reordering of the Sanctuary of the Cathedral Church of St Mary Assumed into Heaven

Update on the Cathedral Sanctuary Reordering Project:

The need to re-order and enhance the Sanctuary of St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, has long been felt.

The project will be staged and will consist, first, of a new hanging icon cross – based on that of San Damiano – suspended above the altar. Further stages will consist in moving the Bishop’s Chair to the left of the Sanctuary and locating the Tabernacle where that Chair currently is. The ambo can then be moved to the right-hand side. Please see the diocesan and cathedral websites.

This project will be financed entirely by donations, and will not draw on existing diocesan or parochial funds. Due to the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on energy and food prices, it has been decided to pause pro-active fundraising and to slow the unfolding of the stages. The pause in more active fundraising will be reviewed at Easter.

It is important to emphasise that the project is not being abandoned. Some have already donated, and others can continue to do so. Information about the project will remain on the diocesan and cathedral websites and the preparatory work on the cross, which has already been commissioned, will continue.

Bishop Hugh has initiated the process of reordering St Mary’s Cathedral Sanctuary to enhance the general appearance and provide a new focus on the sanctuary cross above the altar, the tabernacle and the cathedra (the bishop’s chair).

Opened in December 1860, St. Mary’s Cathedral is the principal Catholic Church in the Diocese of Aberdeen.  The architect was a local man, Alexander Ellis, and the building was designed by R. G. Wilson. In I960 the interior of the cathedral was extensively changed in appearance (as below).

The changes that Bishop Hugh is envisioning will be made in two phases.

Phase 1

New Icon Cross

Replace the present grey fibreglass cross hanging on the East wall with a life-sized icon cross suspended over the altar. This new cross, painted identically on both sides, will be created by iconographer, Martin Earle (see below), and suspended from the arch over the main altar.

It is hoped that it will be hung in time for the celebration of the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on 14th September 2023.

Phase 2


The location of the tabernacle will move from its present location at the side aisle to the centre of the sanctuary against the back wall, where the bishop’s chair is presently situated. It is proposed that a new tabernacle be created.


The location of bishop’s chair would be moved to the left of the sanctuary, at the intersection of the two archways, where the present credence table is located. A new, more decorative, cathedra would be crafted for the purpose.


This will be moved to the right-hand side of the sanctuary, so as not to block the view of the bishop. It is proposed that a more dignified ambo or lectern be created to highlight the importance of the Word of God.


The aumbry is where the sacred oils are reserved. At present the oils are kept in the sacristy.

An aumbry will be crafted (the image below is only an example) and placed where the tabernacle is presently located. In this way the sacred oils will be rendered visible to all.


We invite you to support this project by donating to:

  • Bank: Bank of Scotland, Upperkirkgate Branch
  • Account Name: RCD Cathedral St Mary 2
  • Sort Code: 80-05-17
  • Account No.: 00759746
  • Reference: Sanctuary


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
A registered Scottish Charity Number SC005122