Just north of the centre of Biggar lies Biggar Kirk. Rebuilt as the last Collegiate Church to be established in Scotland before the Reformation, this oasis of tranquility offers a lovely atmosphere and some stunning stained glass windows.
Biggar is an ancient Settlement and a church has stood on this site since the very early days of Christianity in Scotland, perhaps as far back as AD500 or 600. The first stone-built church was built in 1164 and was dedicated to St Nicholas. In the vestibule you can see a list of Ministers starting with Pastor Robert of Bigir in 1164 and continuing through to Reverend Gavin Elliott today.
The current church was rebuilt in 1546 by Malcolm, Lord Fleming as a Collegiate Church. It was dedicated to St Mary, and had a resident college of priests whose role was to pray for the souls of Lord Fleming, his family, his ancestors and his successors.
The Reformation in 1560 led to the dissolution of religious communities throughout Scotland, including those in collegiate churches. Biggar Kirk continued in use as the Parish Kirk. In 1638 religious and civil war broke out when King Charles I tried to enforce his will on the Church in Scotland.
The result was the signing of the National Covenant in Edinburgh (see our Historical Timeline.) In Biggar Kirk, 200 parishioners who signed the Covenant raised a troop of men to fight against the King.
In 1660, the Restoration of Charles II was followed by "the killing times", in effect a continuation of the religious wars of twenty years earlier. Many church Ministers, including Mr Livingstone of Biggar Kirk, took to the hills to preach, followed by most of their parishioners.
Doctrinal strife in the 1700s had the effect of dividing the Kirk, leading to the establishment of breakaway churches in the town. In Biggar these breakaway congregations were re-integrated with Biggar Kirk in 1946 and 1975. One of the breakaway churches, the Moat Park Church, opposite Biggar Kirk, found a later use as the town's main Heritage Centre.
Biggar Kirk is set above the nearby road and on higher ground than surrounding buildings. This helps lend it a slight sense of separateness. Internally you find a typical cruxiform church, with a gallery at the west end of the nave, above the entrance and vestibule. The interior you see today dates back to 1935 when the plaster was removed and the wooden fixtures and fittings renewed.
The Kirk has 13 stained glass windows, the earliest installed in 1870 and the most recent in 1991. The 1991 window by Crear McCartney, shown above right, is particularly impressive. This illustrates the times and seasons and is dedicated to the memory of John Rae, Horticulturist, who died in 1989.