Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:52 UK

Higher profile sought for saint

Whithorn Priory
Whithorn hopes to increase its tourist potential by tapping into its history

A bid is being made in the Scottish Parliament to get greater recognition for the nation's "premier saint".

South of Scotland MSP Alasdair Morgan has lodged a motion calling for the historical significance of St Ninian to be more widely publicised.

He believes it could also help the economic fortunes of Whithorn where the saint established a church in 397 AD.

His calls have been backed by a local trust hoping to raise the profile of Scotland's "cradle of Christianity".

The Whithorn Trust also held an awareness-raising reception at the Scottish Parliament.

It hopes to raise the profile of St Ninian in order to help boost the tourist market in Galloway.

The historic significance of Whithorn and its place in the development of modern Scotland is not reflected in its current position
Alasdair Morgan MSP

Whithorn was famed throughout medieval Europe as a place of pilgrimage.

Trust spokeswoman Janet Butterworth said: "The story of St Ninian and the history of Whithorn seem to be researched, discussed and written about by a few, yet the nation is relatively unaware.

"We intend to change this by calling on Scotland to recognise the historical importance of this largely forgotten saint and town."

Their bid is being backed by Mr Morgan's motion which will be debated by the Scottish Parliament.

He said: "The historic significance of Whithorn and its place in the development of modern Scotland is not reflected in its current position.

"It suffers economically and socially by being perceived as remote and unimportant.

"By increasing awareness of its true historical significance, I hope we can contribute to its regeneration by growing the number of people who are not only aware of it, but also wish to visit this ancient royal burgh."

Pilgrimage site

The traditional date for St Ninian establishing his church, Candida Casa, at Whithorn is 397 AD.

He is generally credited as the first Christian missionary to Scotland, responsible for converting many Celts.

His influence was seen in the large number of churches dedicated in his honour throughout the country and in northern England.

St Ninian's shrine in Whithorn flourished as a destination for pilgrims throughout the middle ages and King James IV of Scotland was a regular visitor.

In more recent times it has seen its religious prominence eclipsed by other parts of the country.

Nonetheless, it retains strong links with early Christianity in Scotland.

In 2007, the bones of six bishops buried at Whithorn Priory more than 600 years earlier were identified using new hi-tech methods.

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