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This dark wooden board features a shrouded skeleton representing Death on one side and an inscription about the deceased on the other.

Appropriately for a cathedral which sprang from the untimely passing of its patron saint, death is omnipresent here but not overwhelming.

So many of the columns are decorated with strange human and animal heads. From the serenity and mystery of the past, I stepped back into the outside world and the present.

St Magnus Cathedral - click here for official web site Set back from the road, across the grass and under a sprinkling of sycamores, sit the Renaissance ruins of the Earl's Palace.

Against the inner walls stand dozens of inscribed tombstones mostly dating from the seventeenth century and all seemingly carved with the skull and crossbones.

Despite the cold air, the colours of the stone added a warmth to the atmosphere and as I made my way up the south aisle, the sun shone through the stained glass windows.

In the far corners of the choir aisles, I came across the elaborate tombs of two Orkney-born explorers.Before moving to a seat in the choir, I looked at the ornate wooden doors and pondered over what lay behind them.By the marble font, I sat absorbed by sculpted faces peering down on me.Heading down the north aisle, I was surprised to see a large painted statue of a Norse king.It turned out to be a representation of Saint Olaf which was presented by the Church of Norway to commemorate the cathedral's octocentenary.

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