Dunfermline Abbey is a Church of Scotland parish church in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. The church occupies the site of the ancient chancel and transepts of a large medieval Benedictine abbey, which was sacked in 1560 during the Scottish Reformation and permitted to fall into disrepair. Part of the old abbey church continued in use at that time and some parts of the abbey infrastructure still remain.

Dunfermline Abbey
Dunfermline Abbey from Pittencrieff Park
Dunfermline Abbey is located in Scotland
Dunfermline Abbey
Dunfermline Abbey
Location in Scotland
56°04′12″N 3°27′49″W / 56.0699°N 3.4636°W / 56.0699; -3.4636
LocationDunfermline, Fife
DenominationChurch of Scotland
Previous denominationRoman Catholic
Functional statusParish Church
Architect(s)William Burn
Minister(s)MaryAnn R. Rennie

History edit

Early history edit

Nave from the reign of King David I

The Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Trinity and St Margaret, was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland, but the monastic establishment was based on an earlier priory dating back to the reign of his father King Máel Coluim mac Donnchada, i. e. "Malcolm III" or "Malcolm Canmore" (regnat 1058–93), and his queen, St Margaret.[1] At its head was the Abbot of Dunfermline, the first of which was Geoffrey of Canterbury, former Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, the Kent monastery that probably supplied Dunfermline's first monks. At the peak of its power it controlled four burghs, three courts of regality, and a large portfolio of lands from Moray in the north south to Berwickshire.[2]

In the decades after its foundation the abbey was the recipient of considerable endowments, as seen from the dedication of 26 altars donated by individual benefactors and guilds and it was an important destination of pilgrims because it hosted the reliquary shrine and cult of Saint Margaret, from whom the abbey later claimed foundation and for which an earlier foundation charter was fabricated.[3] The foundations of the earliest church, namely the Church of the Holy Trinity, are under the superb Romanesque nave built in the 12th century.

During the winter of 1303 the court of Edward I of England was held in the abbey, and on his departure the following year most of the buildings were burned.[3]

Engraving of Dunfermline Abbey and Mill by James Fittler in Scotia Depicta

Later history edit

Ruined Refectory
Dunfermline Parish Church

During the Scottish Reformation, the abbey church had undergone a first Protestant 'cleansing' by September 1559, and was sacked in March 1560. By September 1563 the choir and feretory chapel were roofless, and it was said that the nave was also in a sorry state, with the walls so extensively damaged that it was a danger to enter.[4] Some parts of the abbey infrastructure still remain, principally the vast refectory and rooms over the gatehouse which was part of the former city wall. The nave was also spared and it was repaired in 1570 by Robert Drummond of Carnock. In 1672 parts of the east end collapsed, while in 1716 part of the central tower is said to have fallen, presumably destabilising much that still stood around its base, and the east gable tumbled in 1726. The final collapse of the central tower took place in 1753.[4][5]

The nave served as the parish church till the 19th century, and now forms the vestibule of a new church. This edifice, in the Perpendicular style, opened for public worship in 1821, occupies the site of the ancient chancel and transepts, though differing in style and proportions from the original structure. Also of the monastery there still remains the south wall of the refectory, with a fine window. Next to the abbey is the ruin of Dunfermline Palace, also part of the original abbey complex and connected to it via the gatehouse.

Dunfermline Abbey, one of Scotland's most important cultural sites, has received more of Scotland's royal dead than any other place in the kingdom, excepting Iona. One of the most notable non-royal names to be associated with the abbey is the northern renaissance poet, Robert Henryson. The tomb of Saint Margaret and Malcolm Canmore, within the ruined walls of the Lady chapel, was restored and enclosed by command of Queen Victoria.[3]

Today edit

Dunfermline Abbey side view

The current building on the site of the choir of the old abbey church is a parish church of the Church of Scotland, still with the name Dunfermline Abbey. The minister (since 2012) is the Reverend MaryAnn R. Rennie.

Architecture edit

West Door of the abbey

The old building was a fine example of simple and massive Romanesque, as the nave testifies, and has a beautiful doorway in its west front. Alexander I had the two towers built which flanked the great western entrance.[6]

Another rich Romanesque doorway was exposed in the south wall in 1903, when masons were cutting a site for the memorial to the soldiers who had fallen in the Second Boer War. A new site was found for this monument in order that the ancient and beautiful entrance might be preserved. The venerable structure is maintained publicly, and private munificence has provided several stained-glass windows. The architecture of the Afghan Church in Mumbai in India (dedicated to St John the Baptist) references the door and the right side of the church of Dunfermline Abbey.

Notable ceremonies and burials edit

Tower sculpture

Other burials edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Dunfermline Palace and Abbey - Overview". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  2. ^ Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend pp.178-80.
  3. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ a b McRoberts, David "Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation", Innes Review, 10 (1959), pp.146-50.
  5. ^ Annals of Dunfermline, pp. 342–4.
  6. ^ "History", Dunfermline Abbey

Sources edit

External links edit