Dunkeld Cathedral stands on the north bank of the River Tay in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland. Built in square-stone style of predominantly gray sandstone, the cathedral proper was begun in 1260 and completed in 1501. It stands on the site of the former Culdee Monastery of Dunkeld, stones from which can be seen as an irregular reddish streak in the eastern gable.
Because of the long construction period, the cathedral shows mixed architecture. Gothic and Norman elements are intermingled throughout the structure. Although partly in ruins, the cathedral is in regular use today and is open to the public. A small but delightful museum offers a collection of relics from monastic and Medieval times.
Relics of Saint Columba, including his bones, were said to have been kept at Dunkeld until the Reformation, at which time they were removed to Ireland. Some believe there are still undiscovered Columban relics buried within the cathedral grounds.
The original monastery at Dunkeld dated from the sixth or early seventh century, founded after an expedition of Saint Columba to the Land of Alba. It was at first a simple collection of wattle huts. During the ninth century, King Kenneth MacAlpine constructed a more substantial monastery of reddish sandstone and declared Dunkeld the Primacy (center) of the faith in Alba.
For reasons not completely understood, the Celtic bell believed to have been used at the monastery is not preserved in the cathedral. Instead, it was used in the Little Dunkeld Church, the parish church of the district of Minor or Lesser Dunkeld. Possibly this was because the later Augustinian Canons regarded Culdeeism as heresy, and refused relics or saints of that faith.
In the 11th century, the Celtic Abbacy of Dunkeld became an appanage of the Crown and subsequently descended to the Earls of Fife. Dunkeld Cathedral is today a Crown Property.