Historic Environment Scotland stonemasons Scott Stewart and Graeme Horne and apprentice Jonathan Moir have begun the process of hoisting carved faces, plants and animals into the towers at Elgin Cathedral for a new exhibition opening on Easter weekend.

126 Medieval carved stones will return home to Elgin Cathedral as part of a new exhibition opening on Easter weekend.

The Elgin stones – consisting of carved faces, plants and animals – will be hoisted up into the cathedral towers at Elgin Cathedral after having spent most of 2015 at Historic Environment Scotland’s conservation centre in Edinburgh.

It was here that they were cleaned by expert and conservators and studied by researches.

Now they are returning home and an immersive exhibition has been developed, which will tell the story of Elgin Cathedral and the people who built it and used it.

The cathedral has a rich history, having survived a fire in 1270 and attacks by the Earl of Buchan in 1390 and Alexander, Lord of the Isles in 1402. The cathedral, which is sometimes known as The Lantern of the North, fell into despair  after losing its roof following a reformation.

Interpretation manager at Historic Environment Scotland, Fiona Fleming, explained, “For many years, the carved stones lay buried amidst the ruins, until the 1800s, when Elgin shoemaker John Shanks became the first keeper and watchmen of the cathedral. He began to clear away some of the rubble uncovering wonderful, crisp carvings that had been buried for centuries.

“By studying the stones we have been able to understand more about the cathedral’s construction and the development, its builders and benefactors, and what it might have meant to those who walked through its doors.”

Visitors will have the chance to get up close to the stones for the first time in 20 years at the exhibition. Plus they’ll be able to view bishops’ memorials and fragments of a 13th century rose window discovered during repair works in 1936, at the same time.

The exhibition will also explore the messages contained in the many carvings that embellished the cathedral, and the meaning behind carvings of flora, fauna, funny faces, mystical beasts and heraldic motifs.

Lorna Ewan, head of visitor experience, content and learning at Historic Environment Scotland added, “This is shaping up to be a fascinating exhibition, one which will bring the story of Elgin Cathedral to life for visitors.

“We’ve worked with academic experts to decode the messages within the carvings, and in partnership with Napier University on a wonderful lighting display to create a truly innovative exhibition for Scotland’s year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. ”

The exhibition will open on Easter weekend.

For more information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk.