St Thomas' Roman Catholic Church, Keith

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 42970 50240, map


Chapel Street


St Thomas Roman Catholic Church is located on a prominent site in the large new town area of Keith, a grid-like pattern of streets laid out in the 18th and 19th century, south of Old Keith. The church is aligned east-west and faces a large open square to the east, meaning that it can be seen from quite some distance from this area of the town. The church is a large building but occupies a fairly small plot of land, meaning there are little garden grounds with the church and there is no graveyard. The church was built in the early 1830s and designed by Father Walter Lovi, who is also said to have designed churches in Wick, Braemar and Glenlivet. 

Description (exterior)

The church is a large cruciform structure, incorporating a two-storey presbytery to the rear (west). It is a striking Neo-Classical and Baroque design and quite like most other churches in Moray. The eastern front is faced with fine ashlar sandstone blocks, while the remainder of the building is of coursed granite rubble with dressed stones to the window surrounds and corners (quoins). The roofs of the church and presbytery are slated, as are the vertical sides of the large central dome - the dome itself is roofed with copper sheeting but is actually a mostly concrete structure.


The ornate east elevation forms the main entrance into the church. It is a three-bay, pilastered structure with a slightly advanced central bay. This bay has a tall rectangular doorway with a small, pedimented lintel above, along with a rectangular stone tablet. Above a wide frieze there is a rectangular window at gallery level. The central bay is topped by a pedimented gable and has shallow flanking buttresses or pilasters. The two outer bays of the east front are narrower and set slightly back. They each have rectangular-framed niches with statues and a rectangular tablet. They have shallow corner buttresses with decorative urn pinnacles, and above the wide frieze are ornate and large scroll mouldings (scrolled consoles), which rise to join the central bay. 


The rubble sides of the church are much plainer and simply-detailed. There are north and south transepts, each gabled and with large round-arched windows with stained glass. Small slit windows are set in the gableheads. At the east ends of the elevations are flat-roofed stair aisles or bays and there are low, lean-to side aisles with small rectangular windows. The crossing or centre of the church has a very large octagonal dome. It is mostly constructed in concrete and the sides are faced with slate. The dome is covered with copper sheeting and there is a large cross finial on top. There are oval windows (lucarnes) set in each angle of the dome. The rear of the building forms the large presbytery, which is the same height and width as the nave. It has rectangular windows and bay windows on the south side. 

Description (interior)

The interior of the church was completely re-modelled in 1916 by C J Menart of Glasgow. The interior is cruciform in plan, with a fairly narrow nave, transepts and a shallow chancel at the west end. The plastered walls are painted pale yellow and white and have decorative pilasters and a deep plaster-cast cornice. The dome is similarly decorated with plaster work and rib vaulting. 


The nave and transepts have closely-spaced wooden pews and the north transept houses a pipe organ console and a small side altar set within a round-arched niche. The transept windows all have fine stained glass. At the east end of the nave is a small gallery, fronted by pine panelling. It houses a fairly small pipe organ and is entered via stairs leading off from the vestibule at the entrance. This vestibule has marble flooring and holds a small display about the church. 


The chancel is the main focus of the church. There is a fairly simple stone altar with a cross carving on the front. Behind is a more ornate stone reredos and above is a large painting by Francois Dubois, entitled 'The Incredulity of St Thomas', and this forms an altarpiece. It is framed by a tall pilastered and pedimented panel. The painting was gifted to Father Lovi for the church by Charles X of France. The chancel also contains a small marble lectern and font. 

People / Organisations:

Father Walter LoviDesigned the church1831-2
C J MenartArchitect1916Re-modelled the interior
Francois DuboisPainted the main altarpiece painting1832


  • Church built (1831 to 1832)
  • Interior remodelled (1916)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4188
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 35623A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ45SW 68
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 194287

Bibliographic References:

The District of Moray: An Illustrated Architectural GuideC McLean1987p142-3
The Architecture of Scottish Post Reformation Churches 1560-1843G Hay1957p157 & 251
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1834-1845Vol. XIII, p391
Churches of MorayA J Howat and M Seton1981p32
A Biographical Dictionary of British ArchitectsH Colvin1978p526