St. Salvator's College Chapel

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 50990 16840, map


North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Also known as:

  • University Chapel (1904)
    Officially named as such since 1904 when the congregation of St. Leonard's moved to a new parish church leaving the chapel solely used by the University.
  • St. Salvator's College Church


The College of St. Salvator was established in 1450 by the Bishop of St Andrews, James Kennedy. The properly funded and organised building was thought necessary to solve the university's lack of previous success (founded 1410-14). Religion and education were inseparable at this time and the Collegiate Church was an integral part of life at the college.

In 1761 the roof was found to be in a bad state of repair and water had leaked in and damaged the walls. The stone vaulted roof with stone flags had become too heavy for the walls, which were now leaning. The roof was removed (which fell in during this process and caused damage) and replaced by timber and slate.     The cloister was built in the 1840s by architect William Nixon. Ten years later there was an attempt to return the church to its medieval appearance.    This involved replacing the roof, and pinnacles were added to the southern wall (see also Description of Interior below).    The parapet and clock faces were added in 1851.   

 In 1904 the church became officially the University Chapel.  


Description (exterior)

The chapel consists of a large two stage square tower, buttressed nave, apse, vestry and cloister.    It is built of sandstone ashlar blocks, and has a slate roof. 

The two-stage tower is at the west end of the complex.    It has, in the past hundred years or so, been used to store equipment and materials from the university A string course marks the division between the stages, and above this are pairs of large round arched belfry openings.   Each face has a pair of louvred lancets, and  a clock face.   The top of the tower, just above the belfry openings, has a corbelled parapet and short stone spire which  features lunettes (small windows).   There are five courses of slit windows in the tower.   The base of the south face has a wide doorway, above which are carved heraldic panels.

The vestry is at the north east of the  chapel - at the north of the apse and east of the cloister. It was built by Reginald Fairlie as part of the alterations in 1928-1931.    It is apsidal with buttresses.


Description (interior)

The ante-chapel is at the west end and is separated from the nave by a stone screen (built by Reginald Fairlie in 1928-1931, perhaps on the site of the original screen).     The graveslab of Hugh Spens (d. 1534) leans against the west wall and a consecration cross is visible on the wall at the north side of this.   In the north wall are two doors:  the door to the west leads to the organ loft (west gallery), and the main door is the entrance to the chapel.   The wooden ceiling has painted and gilded ceiling bosses.    Rows of chairs facre eastwards towards the nave.    There is a rectangular stained glass window by Herbert Hendrie in the south elevation, below which is a recess containing fragments of statues and sculptures.   The antechapel provides exhibition space, and features several memorials to notable alumni of the University including the historian Andrew Lang.

Following the repairs in 1761, the interior was renovated.   A medieval cross wall or screen were  removed and a western gallery built.   Shutters were provided for the windows.   New pews were installed.    In the 1840s further alterations were carried out by the Provost, Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair, including renewal of the roof and provision of further new seating.

The latest renovation was in 1928-1931 by P. McGregor Chalmers and Reginald Fairlie.   The latter gave the nave its present layout, when the current pews were installed.   The pews face towards a central aisle and are in tiers with canopied stalls on the uppermost tier on the north side, and ornate carving features thistles and animals. This is particularly so on the north side, where also angels are playing instruments. On the pinnacle of the principal seat the angels are holding the shield of the University.

In 1900 a pulpit designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson was installed.

People / Organisations:

Bishop James KennedyFounder1450Founded the College of St. Salvator and its church. He was interred in the church after his death in 1465.
Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenomination1450-1560
Church of ScotlandDenomination1560-NOW


  • Church: Founded (1450)
    Founded by Bishop James Kennedy.
  • Church: Build/construction (1450 to 1460)
  • Church: Consecration (1460)
  • Tower: Build/construction (1460)
  • Tower: Installed (1460)
    Bell (named \'Katherine\') installed in tower.
  • Church: Addition (1465)
    Monument to Bishop Kennedy.
  • Church: Damage (1547)
    Damaged in fire.
  • Tower: Damage (1547)
    Spire damaged in a fire.
  • Tower: Repair (1609)
    Bell re-cast.
  • Church: Restoration (1683 to 1690)
  • Tower: Repair (1686)
    Bell re-cast.
  • Tower: Installed (1747)
    Bell of St Leonard\'s Chapel (\'Elizabeth\') installed in St Salvator\'s Chapel tower.
  • Tower: Installed (1747)
    Bell (\'Elizabeth\') from St Leonard\'s Chapel installed in St Salvator\'s Chapel tower.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1759 to 1761)
    Roof replaced, new floor laid. New pews installed. Removal of mullions and tracery from windows.
  • Furnishing: Installed (1759 to 1761)
    New pews installed.
  • Stained Glass: Removal (1759 to 1761)
    Mullions and tracery removed from windows and replaced by wooden frames and shutters.
  • Church: Addition (1761)
    Western gallery built.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1773)
    Barrel vault demolished and replaced by timber roof.
  • Church: Damage (1773)
    When roof removed it fell and caused damage to chapel.
  • Church: Installed (1800Sl)
    Organ installed.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1800sl-1900)
    Installation of the stained glass windows which are currently in chapel.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1840)
    Removal of shutters. Installation of new pews.
  • Church: Addition (1840)
    Addition of cloister.
  • Furnishing: Installed (1840)
    New pews.
  • Stained Glass: Removal (1840)
    Removal of shutters.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1840sm)
    Clear glass windows.
  • Church: Addition (1851)
    Tower parapet and clockfaces.
  • Tower: Addition (1851)
    Parapet and clockfaces.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1861 to 1863)
    Buttress pinnacles added to south elevation and tracery.
  • Church: Addition (1861)
    New roof. Seating replaced.
  • Furnishing: Addition (1861)
    Seating replaced.
  • Stained Glass: Addition (1861 to 1863)
    Window tracery.
  • Furnishing: Installed (1900)
    New pulpit, designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson.
  • Church: Installed (1904)
    When the previous organ was removed to St. Leonard\'s Church (site: 10326) it was replaced by another organ, which remained in the chapel until 1973.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1921 to 1922)
    Heating and lighting replaced, woodwork restored, plaster stripped from walls.
  • Church: Addition (1921)
    Blind arcading in apse with mosaic panels, and communion table.
  • Furnishing: Alteration/conversion (1921 to 1922)
    Alterations by Peter MacGregor Chalmers.
  • Furnishing: Installed (1921)
    Communion table, by Peter MacGregor Chalmers, with mosaics by Douglas Strachan.
  • Memorial: Build/construction (1921)
  • Church: Repair (1926)
    Organ in chapel rebuilt.
  • Church: Renovation (1928 to 1931)
    Addition of stone screen between nave and ante-chapel which supported western gallery. New pews which faced central aisle. Addition of vestry.
  • Furnishing: Alteration/conversion (1928 to 1931)
    Refurnished, with pews facing central aisle.
  • Vestry: Build/construction (1928 to 1931)
    Addition of vestry.
  • Chapel: Addition (1928 to 1931)
    Addition of stone screen between nave and ante-chapel.
  • Furnishing: Installed (1930)
    Pulpit (dating to sixteenth century) was originally in Holy Trinity Church (site no: 1474) and was brought to St Salvator\'s Chapel in 1798 but was not installed until 1930 whem it replaced the 1900 pulpit designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson.
  • Tower: Repair (1940)
    Both bells re-cast.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1950)
    Easternmost window on south elevation (Second World War memorial window) was installed.
  • Church: Repair (1955)
    Organ in chapel rebuilt for a second time.
  • Church: Installed (1974)
    Organ installed, replacing the previous organ that had been installed in 1904.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (a1930)
    Window in ante-chapel.
  • Church: Addition (a1996)
    Casing and a new piston system in organ.
  • Chapel: Addition (c1500)
    Tomb recess in west wall of ante-chapel.
  • Tower: Build/construction (c1530)
    Spire built.
  • Tower: Addition (c1550)
    Stone spire added.
  • Furnishing: Removal (c1560)
    Furnishings stripped from chapel.
  • Stained Glass: Removal (c1560)
    Stained glass removed.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 40771
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 34288
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4666

Bibliographic References:

St Salvator\'s College Chapel: A History and GuideRawson, Helen C.2004