Skip to main content

Photos: Scottish Church Once Imprisoned Accused Witches

Dark chapter

Kirk of St Nicholas

(Image credit: Open Space Trust/Mither Kirk Project)

A 15th-century Scottish chapel in Aberdeen was used as a prison for accused witches during the "Great Witch Hunt" in 1597, according to historians. During Aberdeen's "Great Witch Hunt," 23 women and one man were accused of witchcraft, put on trials and then executed.

This photo shows the Kirk of St Nicholas, with the West Kirk in front of the East Kirk and St Mary's Chapel. [Read full story about the "witch prison" in the Scottish church]

Iron ring

Iron Ring in Scottish Chapel

(Image credit: Arthur Winfield/Mither Kirk Project)

This iron ring, set in a stone pillar of a chapel in St Nicholas Kirk in Aberdeen, was used to imprison accused witches during the "Great Witch Hunt" of 1597.

Medieval burials

Archaeological Excavations in East Kirk of St Nicholas

(Image credit: Copyright Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Collection, used with permission)

Archaeological excavations in the East Kirk of St Nicholas in 2006 and 2007 uncovered the remains of more than 2,000 individuals, some buried as long ago as the 11th century.

Skeletal remains

Skeletons Found in East Kirk of St Nicholas

(Image credit: Copyright Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Collection, used with permission)

The remains of more than 2,000 people, including 1,000 entire skeletons, were found during archaeological excacations of the church. Historians said most of the bodies were likely buried before the 1560s.

Witch prison

Witch Prison - St Mary's Chapel

(Image credit: Open Space Trust/Mither Kirk Project)

An 1868 drawing of the former prison for witches, St Mary's Chapel, after it was restored to religious use.

Present time

St Mary's Chapel

(Image credit: Open Space Trust/Mither Kirk Project)

St Mary's Chapel at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen today.

East Kirk of St Nicholas

East Kirk of St Nicholas

(Image credit: Open Space Trust/Mither Kirk Project)

The East Kirk of St Nicholas from the south. St Mary's Chapel is beneath the floor level of the main church at the right of this image.