St Mary's Church

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Copy of the Bressay Stone
St Mary's church from north west, towards Ander Hill
The Church from north east, the Ward of Bressay in the far distance

The ruins of St Mary's Church , one of Bressay's three medieval churches, can be seen in the Kirkyard on the east side of the Voe of Cullingsburgh (pronounced 'Culliesbroch'). (The two other ancient churches were St Ola's Church at Gunnista, and St John's Chapel at Kirkabister, near where the Bressay Lighthouse now is located)

Only low walls and one gable now remain of St Mary's Church. The plan is cross shaped, but some parts could have been added in the 17th century.

The church was in use until the early parts of the 18th century. Stella Sutherland, in an article about churches on Bressay and Noss (Shetland Life, April 1984), says that Presbytery records of 1722 indicate that the minister resided at Culliesbroch and “used the chappell there in case of sickness, weakness, or infirmity whereby he was unable to travel to the aforesaid parish at Gunelsta being a mile and a half distant” '.
Inside the church, there are memorials from the 17th century. One of them, dated 27th of August 1636, has an incription in Dutch to Claes Jonson Buyn of Dungerdam - captain of a Ductch East Indiaman. Another is commemorating "ane vertuous & discreit gentlewoman" Agnes Gifford who died in 1628.
Around 1852, a labourer who was digging in the ground near the kirkyard, found what later has been named the Bressay Stone, a Pictish christian cross slab, dating from the 8th or 9th century..
A replica of the stone was erected in the kirkyard in 2000 by the Shetland Churches Trust to celebrate the millennium.

The history of the kirkyard area goes even further back, because it is built on an iron age broch which is older than the stone. Remains of the broch lie partly within and partly outside of the north west corner of the kirkyard.



The entrance
Inide the ruin, showing old gravestones
St Mary's Church inside 2.JPG
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