The chancel is the area to the east of the crossing, with stalls where the choir and clergy are seated. The Provost’s stall is on the south side, nearest the pulpit. Above it is a carved figure of St Modwenna or St Modwen, a 7th century Irish abbess (some sources say 9th), who founded two nunneries at Burton in Derbyshire. Some years later she came to Scotland and accounts of her life mention Edinburgh, Stirling and the Carse of Gowrie. Modwen is said to have died near Longforgan, when her companions saw her body being taken up to Heaven accompanied by silver swans. Later her bones were removed to Burton Abbey and the shrine of St Modwen in Burton Abbey became a place of pilgrimage. Modwen’s statue showed her leaning on a pilgrim staff, and pregnant women prayed that they might lean on it for support during childbirth. Burton Abbey and St. Modwen’s shrine were destroyed in the Dissolution of religious houses of 1538.
Opposite Modwen on the north (organ) side of the chancel is the Precentor’s stall, under a carving of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, holding his cross.
The Canons in the Cathedral Chapter sit in the other rear canopied seats. At the eastern end of the stalls on the south side is St Paul, patron of the Cathedral, holding his symbol, a sword. Opposite is the cathedra, the seat of the Bishop of the Diocese, from which a cathedral gets its name. Over this are the diocesan arms, together with the figures of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, wife of Malcolm III (r. 1069-93), and her son, David I (r. 1124-53). King David established the See of Brechin and is holding a model of Brechin Cathedral, which he founded.* The seat is copied from a medieval miserere, and underneath is a carving of a vine surrounding the diocesan arms.
The roof over the chancel and transept crossing is stone ribbed vaulting. The faces of four angels face inward from the corners of the choir. Some of the carving in St Paul’s is thought to be based on Lincoln Cathedral, and its ‘Angel Quire’ may have suggested these figures.
*You can also see King David in the central section of the large window on the north side of the transept, on the left. He looks resplendent in his robes and scarlet gloves, and again is holding a model of his cathedral. It is unlikely that Brechin Cathedral ever resembled this splendid pink church.