St Mary's Church Grantully
St Mary Church Grantully is a fine and rare survivor of a pre-Reformation Scottish rural parish chapel.
In 1533 Alexander Stewart of Grantully gave lands to the priory of St Andrews in return for a priest to serve here. This is the first record of the church.
St Mary's Chapel served as a parish church until the Reformation in 1559. It then became the Church of Scotland parish Kirk. The originally building was not as long as it is today.
The 1559 Scottish Reformation was when Scotland broke with the Pope in Rome and the end Roman Catholicism in Scotland. A Calvinist national Kirk was developed with a strongly Presbyterian outlook. This was all part of the wider European Protestant Reformation that took place from the sixteenth century.
Enlarging St Mary's Chapel
In 1636 Alexander Stewart's great grandson, Sir William Stewart and Dame Agnes Moncrieff enlarged St Mary's Chapel. They installed the extravagant and sophisticated ceiling. This was spectacular for the time, a riot of colourful biblical stories. There are twenty-nine panels in the ceiling. Each panel depict the arms of the local landowners, including the Earls of Atholl and the Lairds of Grandtully.
The large central panel in the ceiling, (right image) depicts the virtues of a Christian death. It shows death about to claim the occupant of a canopied bed.
There are two cupboard recesses. The recess in the north wall was for storing the 'Host' after mass. According to the Catholic Church, consecrated bread and wine, they cease to be bread and wine. They become instead the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. The consecrated bread is known afterwards as the 'Host'.
At the gable end of St Mary's Chapel, there is the 1636 lintel inscribed with the initials of Sir William Stewart and Dame Agnes Moncrieff.
The Steuart Family.
Set in the floor of the chapel are two large stone slabs with iron rings. Beneath one lies Lady Steuart (Stewart) of Grantully who died 1856. The second slab is burried her gallant son, Major William George Drummond Steuart (Stewart) VC (The Victoria Cross, is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces).
Stewart was 26 years old, and a Captain in the 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his above actions at relieve the Siege of Lucknow. The Siege of Lucknow was the prolonged defence of the Residency within the city of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Six Victoria Crosses in all were bestowed on the 93rd Highlanders for their gallantry on 16 November, but Sir Colin Campbell (the Commander-in-Chief, India) who decided, perhaps fearing that he might be accused of partiality, that only one of these should be given to the officers. Votes were taken and Capt. Stewart was chosen by his brother officers to receive the much prized honour. A total of 18 Victoria Crosses were awarded to British forces at Lucknow on 16 November 1857, the largest number ever awarded in a single day.
No longer a parish church, St Mary's Chapel is looked after and maintained by Historic Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Nation.