[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Ninian's Cave, Physgill

According to the Miracula Nyniæ, St. Ninian would sometimes withdraw from the large monastery at Whithorn to "study spiritual knowledge in a cave of horrible blackness". The cave is at Physgill, Scotland, overlooking the Irish Sea, and although its "horrible blackness" appears to have a been a symbolic or rhetorical touch by the hagiographer (the cave is more like a niche in the cliff), it is one of the most powerful and moving holy sites in the British Isles. There is an uninterrupted tradition of pilgrimage to the cave going back to Orthodox times. Pilgrims have left and still leave small crosses at the site; ancient examples can be seen in the Whithorn Museum. Except for the crosses and an unobtrusive historical marker, the cave is still in its natural condition, untouched by both the mediæval and modern tourism industries.

--- Norman Hugh Redington


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