St Peter's, Cardross

Birth, Death and Renewal

By Diane M Watters

Format: Hardback

In this landmark book, Diane Watters looks at the history of St Peter's Seminary, Cardross. She traces the story of an architectural failure which morphed into a tragic modernist myth. This is a historian's account of St Peter's: an exploration of how one of Scotland's most singular buildings became one of its most troubled - and most celebrated.

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Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland is a lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland's historic environment. They take on the responsibilities of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments, which has been managing and recording the historic environment for more than a century. Their books deliver wonderfully illustrated and immaculately researched titles to anyone with an interest in Scotland's history and heritage.

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The ruin of St Peter's College has sat on a wooded hilltop above the village of Cardross for more than three decades. Over that time, with altars crumbling, graffiti snaking across its walls and nature reclaiming its concrete, it has gained a mythical, cult-like status among architects, preservationists and artists.

St Peter's only fulfilled its original role as a seminary for 14 years, from 1966 to 1979. As its uncompromising design gave way to prolonged construction and problematic upkeep, the Catholic Church reassessed the role of seminaries, resolving to embed trainee priests not in seclusion, but in communities. Although briefly repurposed as a drug rehabilitation centre, the building was soon abandoned to decay and vandalism.

Ever since, people have argued and puzzled over the future and importance of St Peter's. It has been called both Scotland's best and worst twentieth century building. In 1992, it was listed category A. One of its architects suggested the idea of ‘everything being stripped away except the concrete itself - a purely romantic conception of the building as beautiful ruin'. And now in 2016, St Peter's is renewed as a cultural space through the work of the arts organisation NVA.

In this landmark book, Diane Watters looks at the history of a structure that emerged out of an innovative phase of post-war Catholic church building. She traces the story of an architectural failure which morphed into a tragic modernist myth: unappreciated architects betrayed by an unloving client, and abandoned by an uncaring society. This is a historian's account of the real story of St Peter's College: an exploration of how one of Scotland's most singular buildings became one its most troubled - and most celebrated.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Hardback
Imprint Historic Environment Scotland
Publication Date 29 Nov 2016
ISBN 9781849172233
Number of Pages 320

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Press Reviews

'Vast and visually stunning ... the brilliance of this work is in treating the building almost as a sentient being'

'The book itself is beautiful, well written and researched and packed with gorgeous photographs and drawings ... a fascinating and detailed history' 

'... little short of a masterpiece'

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