Blackfriars, St Andrews

Blackfriars is the modern name for the Dominican friary of St Mary which existed in St Andrews, Scotland, in the later Middle Ages. The name is also used for the modern ruins.

Blackfriars, St Andrews
Blackfriars Chapel (St Andrews) 20080503.jpg
Remains of the friary
Monastery information
Established15th century (uncertain)
DisestablishedJune 1559
Dedicated toVirgin Mary
DioceseSt Andrews
CoordinatesNO 50764 16565
Visible remainsSide apse (pictured)


Some later sources claim that the friary was founded in the late 13th century, but these are spurious, and its actual foundation probably did not occur until the mid-15th century.[1] The first known prior of the house is attested on 22 November 1464.[2]

The foundation of a full Dominican house was preceded by a small oratory or hospice.[2] As James Beaton, archbishop of St Andrews, claimed that he and his predecessors were founders of the house, it is likely the foundation was episcopal.[2] The foundation of the house was probably prompted by the needs of the University of St Andrews.[2]


In the 1510s at least, the friary was expanded, the number of brothers rising from two to five.[2] In 1519 the Hospital of St Nicholas and the Dominican friary at Cupar were taken over by St Andrews friary, with the friary at St Monans partially united.[3] While the friars at Cupar moved to St Andrews, friars were left at St Monans to live out their years.[4]

The house was severely damaged by the forces of Norman Leslie [of Rothes] in 1547.[2] Sometime after 14 June 1559 but before 22 June 1559 the friars were "expelled from their destroyed place" by Protestant reformers.[5] This was part of a general movement, associated with the Scottish Reformation, hostile to friaries and other aspects of the old Catholic order. The property of the house was given to the burgh of St Andrews by Queen Mary on 17 April 1567.[2] The remains of a vaulted apse lie where Bell Street meets South Street, outside Madras College.


  1. ^ Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, pp. 119–20
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 120
  3. ^ Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, pp. 117, 120–21
  4. ^ There were no friars by 1557, and apparently the house never had more than two; Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 121
  5. ^ Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, p. 120; Wormald, Court, Kirk, and Community, pp. 86-7, 116-7


  • Cowan, Ian B.; Easson, David E. (1976), Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Isle of Man (2nd ed.), London and New York: Longman, ISBN 0-582-12069-1
  • Wormald, Jenny (1981), Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland, 1470-1625, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-0276-3