1. The Narthex was built in 1882, as a side aisle to the original church, and is now both a baptistry for the fine onyx and marble font shown and a meeting place for the congregation. It is thus similar to a ‘Galilee Porch’, such as is found at Durham Cathedral.
2. The west wall contains two windows with modern paintings by Sarah Campbell of Dunstaffnage. The left-hand window depicts the dream of Jacob at Bethel, linking earth and heaven. His stone pillow is traditionally supposed to be the Coronation Stone formerly in Westminster Abbey, now in Edinburgh Castle, and which was once housed at Dunstaffnage Castle. The right-hand window is the vision of St John the Divine (after whom the building is dedicated), in which the elders cast their crowns on a sea of glass.
3. The lifebelt comes from H.M.S. Jason which was hit by an enemy mine near Coll, during the First World War, and 25 people were lost. The crew, before their last fateful tour of duty had worshipped at St John’s, which was much used by the Forces during both World Wars. It has been said that many War Memorials are finely designed, but ‘this War Memorial was the means of actually saving one or two lives’.
4. The tall choir Stall ends are intended to represent tall round-headed carved stones in a Celtic graveyard. The carvings on the right hand side include the sign of St Mungo, the Diocesan Arms (with a Blessing issuing from God’s hand), and Christ in Majesty; and all the designs have formal ‘roots’ going down the panel.
5. The twelve canon stalls in the back row on either side are dedicated to Celtic Saints. Most of the stalls have tip up seats, such as are found in medieval churches. The Bishop’s special stall has a raised canopy, with the Diocesan Arms behind it; while the Provost’s stall is surrounded with carved thistles
6. The blocked transept arch contains a massive metal eagle the sign of St John the Evangelist, whose theology is supposed to soar over the rest of the Bible. The bronzed metal sculpture is by George Wyllie, Gourock.
7. The reredos behind the altar is over 40 feet high, with acanopy including gilded thistles, in a decorative style in contrast to the plain Norman style of the stonework, and was designed by the architect, James Chalmers, himself. It is in memory of Bishop Chinnery-Haldane, who is depicted as St Columba in the right-hand statue. The left-hand statue is St John, who is supposed to have drunk from a poisoned chalice and survived, and the statue has the traditional imagery of a chalice with a little dragon peeping out. The oil paintings, by the Glasgow artist Norman MacDougall, are a synopsis of the life of Jesus Christ; the Annunciation to Mary (the outer two paintings); the Pieta; and above it the Ascension, set in the West Highlands, with the faces of the apostles being the faces of some of the congregation in 1910.
9. The pulpit is of St Bee’s stone.
Photos are © Nicki McNelly