Monasteries in Scotland

Fearn Abbey

Fearn Abbey has its origins in one of Scotland"s oldest pre-Reformation church buildings. The original Fearn Abbey was established in either 1221 or 1227 by Premonstratensian canons from Whithorn Priory. Originally founded at 'Old Fearn' near Edderton, it was moved by 1238 to 'New Fearn' further east, perhaps to take advantage of better agricultural lands. The Abbey was rebuilt between 1338 and 13 ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Fearn, United Kingdom

Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata. In 563, Columba came to Iona from Ireland with twelve companions, and founded a monastery. It developed as an influential centre for the ...
Founded: 563 AD | Location: Isle of Iona, United Kingdom

Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court. It was William"s only personal foundation — he was buried before the high altar of the church in 1214. The Abbey, which was the richest in Scotland, is most fa ...
Founded: 1178 | Location: Arbroath, United Kingdom

Deer Abbey

Deer Abbey was a Cistercian monastery in Buchan. It was founded in 1219 by the patronage William Comyn, Earl of Buchan, who is also buried there. There was an earlier community of Scottish monks or priests. The notitiae on the margins of the Book of Deer record grants made to the Scottish religious community in the 12th century and a claim that it was founded by Saint Columba and Saint Drostan. The old relig ...
Founded: 1219 | Location: Buchan, United Kingdom

Holyrood Abbey Ruins

Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. The original abbey church of Holyrood was largely reconstructed between 1195 and 1230. The completed building consisted of a six-bay aisled choir, three-bay transepts with a central tower above, and an eight-bay aisled nave with twin towers at its west front. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reform ...
Founded: 1128 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent p ...
Founded: 1273 | Location: Dumfries, United Kingdom

Saddell Abbey Ruins

Saddell Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1207 by Ragnall, son of Somairle mac Gille Brigte. It was established by monks from Mellifont Abbey in Ireland. Very little is known about the abbey and its history. It probably enjoyed several centuries of good monastic life, but by the reign of James IV of Scotland monastic life had apparently disappeared. It was proposed to the Pope that the bishopric of Argyll should ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Cambuskenneth Abbey Ruins

Cambuskenneth Abbey is a ruined Augustinian monastery founded of David I around the year 1140. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was initially known as the Abbey of St Mary of Stirling and sometimes simply as Stirling Abbey. The major street leading down the castle hill from the royal residences in Stirling Castle to the abbey was called St. Mary"s Wynd, a name it retains. Cambuskenneth was one of the more important ...
Founded: 1140 | Location: Stirling, United Kingdom

Beauly Priory Ruins

Beauly Priory was a Valliscaulian monastic community. It was probably founded in 1230. It is not known for certain who the founder was, different sources giving Alexander II of Scotland, John Byset, and both. The French monks, along with Bisset (a nearby, recently settled landowner), had a strong enough French-speaking presence to give the location and the river the name beau lieu ('beautiful place') and have it pass into ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Beauly, United Kingdom

Ardchattan Priory

Ardchattan Priory was established in 1230 or 1231 by an obscure order of monks from France, the Valliscaulians. They followed a strict form of monastic rule, with emphasis more on the ascetic religious life than on manual work. Houses were limited to no more than 20 brothers, and the monks’ livelihood depended on rents and teinds (tithes) from endowments. Their church, in common with all Valliscaulian houses, was de ...
Founded: 1230-1231 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Oronsay Priory Ruins

Oronsay Priory was a monastery of canons regular on the island of Oronsay. It was in existence by 1353, perhaps founded by John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. It was dedicated to St. Columba, and perhaps was a continuation or a re-activation of an older foundation. Very little is known about it because of the absence of records and its remoteness from the Scottish Lowlands, but on occasions some of the Priors of Oronsay com ...
Founded: 1353 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.