Explore Middle Ages cathedral in its prime

The Choir
The Choir

A virtual time machine has been officially unveiled in St Andrews, allowing the exciting opportunity to explore the town’s cathedral, Scotland’s largest medieval church, as it was in its prime in the Middle Ages.

The cathedral is a ruinous monument today, but 700 years ago it was the seat of Scotland’s leading bishops and, from 1472, its archbishops.

St Andrews University academics have launched an online, 3D reconstruction of the cathedral and people will now be able to create their own avatars and navigate their way around the online reconstruction, exploring the cloisters, the internal choir section, the chapter house, and the nave.

There are historic characters so visitors can chat - using headphones and microphone - with Robert the Bruce, an Augustinian Friar and, perhaps, the Old Grey Lady, a ghost reported to haunt the building. The experience is intended to give users a new perspective on Scottish history, accessible across the generations.


The virtual cathedral is the result of a collaboration between computer scientists, 3D designers, art historians and archaeologists, and is similar to multi-player computer games but differ in the important respect that their appearance, interactive characteristics, content and purpose are all programmable. This technology offers the potential of providing the core of the future 3D Internet.

Dr Alan Miller, of the School of Computer Science, told the Citizen: “To walk around the reconstruction of St Andrews Cathedral enables one to appreciate the magnificent achievement of its construction over 600 years ago. We have worked together to take a vision, achieved through decades of scholarship, of how this building was - and make it accessible to all.”

Dr Rebecca Sweetman, of the School of Classics, added: ”The collaborative work of the reconstruction brings together some of the university’s oldest and newest schools over its 600-year history. In the spirit of this the reconstruction enables the modern viewer to experience the past through contemporary methods and on-going research.”


The construction of St Andrews Cathedral began in 1160 and continued over the next 150 years, interrupted by a storm in 1272 which blew down the west front, and the first War of Independence against England (1296–1307). The cathedral was eventually dedicated in 1318, in the presence of Robert the Bruce, by which date it was by far the largest church in Scotland.

In 1559, John Knox preached a fiery sermon in St Andrews Parish Church, and the cathedral was ‘cleansed’ as a result. In 1561 it was abandoned and replaced by the parish church as the chief place of worship. Thereafter the former headquarters of the Scottish Church was left to fall into ruin.

The cathedral reconstruction project was made possible thanks to £5000 from the university’s 600th anniversary fund and can be accessed at: http://virtualworlds.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/cathedral/login.php.