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St Ninian and St Martin of Tours

On his way home from Rome, St Ninian stopped for a while with St. Martin at Tours in Western France, as many did, for he was a success story of the times and many wanted to learn from him. St Martin gave him an unusual present: two of his monks skilled in building came after Ninian and directed the building of his first church. They are represented at the bottom left in the stained-glass window photo above (one of a series tracing our Scottish Catholic History to be found in the Pontifical Scots College, Rome). Soon after arriving back in Scotland, he heard of St Martin’s death, and St Ninian named his church after him. To this day the church in Whithorn is named after St. Martin and St. Ninian, but Martin first. In Gaelic the place name was Taigh Mhàrtainn – the School of Martin.

The church was built in a whitewashed style, unknown to the local people and it became known as Hwit Ærne, or white house, from which we get Whithorn. In Latin, it was known as Candida Casa, the white or shining house, which gave way to the deeper meaning that it was the place from which the shining light of Christ was first brought to the people of our land.

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