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Historic chapel faces closure

St Mary’s Chapel, a beautiful and historic church formerly part of Blairs seminary in Aberdeenshire, is expected to close because of a two million pound repair bill.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, the Bishop of Aberdeen and Chair of the Blairs College Chapel Trust, said a recent survey of the chapel found a host of issues that would cost an estimated two million pounds to repair so he and the other trustees ‘have come to the view that the building will have to close permanently.’

St Mary’s College, Blairs, in Aberdeenshire was a junior seminary from 1829 to 1986. Although the surrounding land and seminary buildings were sold, the chapel has remained in use as a place of worship.  The attached Blairs Museum which hosts a vast collection of Catholic art is expected to move to a new location in the Central Belt. 

The bishop said that ‘the Trust, with the help of the parish and other sources, has worked hard over many years to find funding and maintain the property as a place of worship’.

“Regrettably, however, rising running costs, a diminished number of parishioners and a catalogue of serious defects in the building brought to light by the recent survey make it difficult to see how the Chapel can be sustained for its present purposes,” he said. “The estimated costs of rectifying the current problems exceed the means of the Trust and, indeed, of the Diocese of Aberdeen or other interested parties.”

The bishop said that only 30 people currently attend Mass at St Mary’s each Sunday and two other parishes are only 15 minutes drive away.

“With these considerations in mind and after due consultation, the Trustees have come to the view that the building will have to close permanently,” he said. “Given the beauty of the church and the historical connection with the former junior seminary, they are fully aware of the sadness this will cause. However, the Trustees know that many will also understand the physical and financial realities in play here. They can also offer the reassurance that nearby parishes will be able to accommodate the needs of the parishioners without undue hardship.”

The Bishop said that no final decision will be taken until 30 September 2022.

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