Monasteries in Scotland

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

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

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

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

Pluscarden Abbey

Pluscarden Abbey is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery in the glen of the Black Burn, 6 miles south-west of Elgin. It was founded in 1230 by Alexander II for the Valliscaulian Order. In 1454, following a merger with the priory of Urquhart, Pluscarden Priory became a Benedictine House. The Scottish Reformation saw the decline of the priory, and by 1680 it was in a ruinous condition. Some work to arrest decay to ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Elgin, United Kingdom

Kinloss Abbey

Kinloss Abbey is a Cistercian abbey founded in 1150 by King David I and was first colonised by monks from Melrose Abbey. It received its Papal Bull from Pope Alexander III in 1174, and later came under the protection of the Bishop of Moray in 1187. The abbey went on to become one of the largest and wealthiest religious houses in Scotland, receiving the valuable salmon fishing rights on the River Findhorn from ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Forres, 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

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

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

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

Restenneth Priory

The earliest masonry at Restenneth Priory dates to the 1100s, Alexander I had the annals of Iona transferred to the priory in the 1100s, and Robert the Bruce buried his young son Prince John here in the 1300s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Forfar, 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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.