The Chapter House was the meeting place for the clergy and was used as a robing room. The room above was the Treasury where all the precious items used in the services were kept.
Today The Chapter House is an interpretive centre telling the history of the Church and the community of Dunkeld and Birnam from Celtic times to the present day. It is managed by The Chapter House Museum Trust.
You can see two old stones. The Apostles’ Stone is a very fine 8th or 9th century example of Pictish Art, showing scenes said to depict Daniel in the lions’ den and the feeding of the five thousand. It was the twelve standing figures on one side of the stone which gave it its traditional name.
The other is a Cross Slab from the 9th century monastery which may have been used as a gate post. The pink stone would have been quarried from a nearby quarry, while the other came from further afield.
Also in the Chapter House is the original tombstone of Niel Gow, the 18th century fiddler and composer who lived in Inver and who played for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Blair Castle and met and worked with Robert Burns. He is buried in the graveyard at Little Dunkeld, but his tombstone was disintegrating, and the decision was made in 1950 to bring it into the Chapter House and replace it with a new stone.
There are a number of bells in the Chapter House. The Great Curfew Bell, cast in 1688, was removed from the top of the Cathedral in 1975. It was rung every day at 6am and 8pm right up to the time of the First World War.
You can hear the Culdees 9th century bell being run. It is 4 sided but plays only 3 notes and is believed to date from the time of King Constantine or King Kenneth MacAlpine, who built an earlier church in Dunkeld to house the relics of St Columba in 848A.D.
The Beadles’s Bell was rung by the beadle (or church officer) when walking around the town to announce weddings and funerals.
The Treasury Case contains fine examples of Church Communion ware from 1745 onwards, communion tokens and early seals.
There is also a bust of Sir Donald Currie, who restored the Choir to its present cathedral style layout in 1908.
The model is of the house that never was! It was planned in the early 19th century by the 4th Duke of Atholl to replace the house that was situated to the north of the Cathedral. He died in 1830 and there was no money to complete the building. The current Dunkeld House Hotel is the 3rd version of Dunkeld House.
The Atholl connection is also shown in the marble statue of the 4th Duke of Atholl, who was known as ‘Planter John’ because of his interest in forestry. He introduced the commercial planting of larch trees in Scotland. The impressive wall memorial to the 1st Marquis, shows the heraldic crests of those families linked in marriage with the Murrays of Atholl. Below the Chapter House in the crypt are the tombs of several Dukes of Atholl and their wives.
As you leave the Chapter House, you will notice to the left of the door a small groove in the stonework. This was the ‘piscina’, which would have held holy water for the clergy to wash the communion vessels.
We encourage you to take time to stay a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility of this ancient sacred place.
If you have enjoyed the tour and would like to contribute to the upkeep of this sacred and historic building, please use the donate button to make a donation.
We wish you a happy and pleasant stay in this beautiful part of Perthshire.