The Nigg Old Church is a stunning piece of history with its roots dating back to 1296. Though the exact date of the original building is unknown, the earliest mention of it was in 1296 when John of Dunbretan pledged loyalty to King Edward of England. It was then that a parish system was introduced, where landowners paid a tenth of their crops for church upkeep, which went directly to Ross’s Bishop. The bishop appointed someone else as vicar in his place, and the system included property such as a mansion house, orchard, garden, moothill fish ponds, and granary behind the church.
The original east-west orientation of the altar was changed during the Reformation in 1560, and the pulpit became the focus. The church was rebuilt in 1626, and a north aisle was added. Additionally, a bell was cast in the Netherlands and inscribed with the words “Michael Burgerhuys MEF1624 Soli Deo Gloria.” On 13th April 1633, Master William Ross presided over the ceremony with the presence of Donald MacHomas Mor Pitcalean, Magnus Ferne, Magnus Davidson Nig, and Walter MacCulloch Shandwick.
Several alterations were made to the church over the years, including the stoppage of burials inside the building, the construction of a tower to increase accommodation, and the addition of three lofts or galleries. The North Loft belonged to Cadboll, Invercassley, East Pitcalnie, Kindeace, and West Poor Fund. The rent from pews provided income for the church.
Religious revival began under Rev John Balfour with prayer meetings and prominent lay preachers. Men with supernatural powers, prophesying and visions were also involved. One of them, Donald Roy, died at the age of 105. However, some congregants objected to the power of landowners to appoint ministers and not the congregation. An attempt to replace the minister met with disapproval, and during the induction ceremony, a big crowd deserted, leaving only four people. Two of them opposed the new minister. Suddenly, the door opened, and McKeddie walked up to them and stated that blood was required to settle the walls of the kirk that had broken away. They formed their own Ankerville in the same form and dimensions. The opposition grew.
In the church’s interior, the Nigg Pictish Cross-Slab is the main attraction. The cross-slab is internationally renowned and was recently re-displayed with new lighting and interpretation. The gravestone of the fourteenth century in the kirkyard remains a visible sign of the medieval site. The church also contains the original fourteenth-century bell, which is still rung today. The Bishop Walk is still evident today, with its belt of trees leading from the church down to the shore. The West Loft’s interior room is hidden, and partitions hide the remaining lofts, but it is possible for visitors to see them. A full description of the church and its history can be found on the display board at the entrance to the Kirkyard.
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