The Catholic Church in Scotland has finally given away the ruins of the old St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross.
Opened in 1966 to train Priests for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, the model of seminary training began to change not too long afterwards and the building quickly became unfit for purpose. Along with this, the design of the building made it cold, draughty and impossible to heat. Despite that, it has been hailed as a ‘modernist masterpiece’ and has been given listed status.
Designed by Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein, the seminary was built by the renowned firm of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia. The word ‘brutalist’ has often been used to describe the astonishing concrete building, with it’s zig-zag formation, floating staircases and other peculiar design features.
Cardross was finally deconsecrated in 1980.
Since then, the building has fallen into a terrible state of disrepair, not helped by various fires over the years – these destroyed the wooden roof structure and all the interior wood – this allowed the elements to enter in all their fury, wreaking havoc on what was once a stunning piece of architecture, even if not to everyone’s taste. The ruins have been used as the setting for light installations, and they consistently prove to be fascinating to students of architecture and to photographers – both groups coming from across the world to visit, even now.
I have visited several times as a photographer. The photograph above was on my first visit and shows the Altar, looking down through what was once the Chapel and beyond into the former refectory – sadly, at my next visit, the Altar had been broken into two large sections and was no longer standing.
In the 1960s a film was made of the staff and students, whilst Cardross was still functioning as a seminary. This film can still be found online. Several years ago, the original architects attended a one-off screening of a film which recreated – shot by shot – that much earlier film, and the two were shown simultaneously, side by side on huge screens at an art venue in Glasgow; I was able to get a ticket and I attended that night, and it was fascinating. The juxtaposition of those two films was startling.
The Archdiocese commented last year that Cardross and it’s estate were an ‘albatross araound our neck’ and one which they were not able to flatten, sell nor even give away. Thankfully, this has now changed and the entire place has been bequeathed to a charitable education trust who have plans to do something with the place – even though every similar plan over the last thirty years has failed.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
You can read more about the story of Cardoss at the BBC Website.