A simple building
St Mary’s is typical of pre-Reformation Highland churches. It is simple and rectangular, externally austere and internally almost devoid of ornamentation.
Although there is record of a church at ‘Carantuli’ around 1250, the building probably dates from around 1533, when Alexander Stewart, of nearby Grandtully Castle, granted part of his estate to the canons of St Andrews Cathedral
. This grant was to finance a curate to take the services. The curate’s own services were dispensed with at the Protestant Reformation in 1560.
Around a century later, Sir William Stewart of Grandtully and his spouse, Dame Agnes Moncrieffe, modified the medieval building to make it fit for reformed worship. They extended the church westward to its present length, and converted the old east end, where the altar once stood, into a family aisle and burial vault.
The window high up in the east gable has a lintel bearing their initials. However, the undoubted highlight of their refurbishment is the extraordinary painted ceiling they had installed in their aisle.An extraordinary ceiling
The painted ceiling is one of only two church ceilings of the 1600s now remaining in its original setting (the other is in the Skelmorlie Aisle
The decoration takes the form of 28 roundels of varying shapes and sizes depicting saints, proverbs and the Stewart family’s heraldic achievements. The background is composed of clusters of fruit and flowers, birds and reclining angels trumpeting the Resurrection.
At the centre is a panel depicting the Resurrection itself, with a dying figure in a canopied bed about to be ‘stung’ by Death – a skeletal figure wielding a spear or arrow. To the right of the bed, the dead rise from their graves at the summons of a pair of angels sounding the last trumpet.Highlight
- The painted ceiling – a rare and fascinating relic from the later 1600s.
Region – Perthshire, Kinross and Angus
3m north east of Aberfeldy off the A827.
Grid reference - NN 886 505.