Monasteries in Scotland

Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey origins date from the 12th century, based on a former Cluniac monastery. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, it became a Church of Scotland parish kirk. It is believed that Saint Mirin (or Saint Mirren) founded a community on this site in 7th century. Some time after his death a shrine to the Saint was established, becoming a popular site of pilgrimage and veneration. In 1163, Walter fitz Alan, ...
Founded: 1163 | Location: Paisley, 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

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey is one of the best examples of Scoto-Norman monastic architecture. The Abbey, built between 1128 and 1150 under David I, was a reconstruction of the Benedictine chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, founded by his mother, Queen Margaret. Despite much of the monastic buildings being destroyed by the troops of Edward I in 1303, there are substantial remains, with the lower stories of the dormitory and latr ...
Founded: 1128-1150 | Location: Dunfermline, United Kingdom

Scone Abbey

Scone Abbey was a house of Augustinian canons. Historians have long believed that Scone was before hat time the center of the early medieval Christian cult of the Culdees. Very little is known about the Culdees but it is thought that a cult may have been worshiping at Scone from as early as 700 AD. Archaeological surveys taken in 2007 suggest that Scone was a site of real significance even prior to 841 AD, when Kenneth Ma ...
Founded: c. 1120 | Location: Scone, 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

Inchcolm Abbey

Inchcolm Abbey is a medieval abbey located on the island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth in Scotland. The Abbey, which is located at the centre of the island, was founded in the 12th century during the episcopate of Gregoir, Bishop of Dunkeld. Later tradition placed it even earlier, in the reign of King Alexander I of Scotland (1107–24), who probably had some involvement in the island; he was apparently ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Inchcolm, United Kingdom

Isle of May Priory

The Isle of May Priory was a community of Benedictine monks established for 9 monks of Reading Abbey on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. It had been founded by 1153, under the patronage of David I of Scotland. The priory passed into the control of St Andrews Cathedral Priory in the later 13th century, and by 1318 had been relocated to Pittenweem (see Pittenweem Priory). Mary of Guelders, bride of Jam ...
Founded: 1153 | Location: Isle of May, United Kingdom

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory is situated on Inchmahome, the largest of three islands in the centre of Lake of Menteith. The priory was founded in 1238 by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn, for a small community of the Augustinian order (the Black Canons). The Comyn family were one of the most powerful in Scotland at the time, and had an imposing country house on Inch Talla, one of the other islands on the Lake of Menteith ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Aberfoyle, 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

Culross Abbey

Culross Abbey was founded in 1217 by Malcolm I, Mormaer or Earl of Fife, and was first colonised by monks from Kinloss Abbey. Culross may have been chosen to establish an abbey because this was the birthplace of Saint Mungo. It is evident that the abbey was built over the earlier Pictish church supposedly founded by Saint Serf in the 6th century, as witnessed by the presence in the ruined Cistercian church of early mediev ...
Founded: 1217 | Location: Culross, United Kingdom

Pittenweem Priory

Pittenweem Priory was an Augustinian priory located in the village of Pittenweem. Originally a Benedictine community founded from Reading Abbey in England and based on the Isle of May, it was relocated to Pittenweem by 1318, and placed under the control of the Augustinian canons regular of St Andrews Priory. A shrine was dedicated to Saint Adrian of May on that island. It is said that Adrian"s monks undertook the ...
Founded: 1318 | Location: Pittenweem, United Kingdom

Balmerino Abbey

Balmerino Abbey founded in 1227 to 1229 by monks from Melrose Abbey with the patronage of Ermengarde de Beaumont and King Alexander II of Scotland. It remained a daughter house of Melrose. It had approximately 20 monks at the beginning of the sixteenth century, but declined in that century. In December 1547 it was burned by an English force, and allegedly damaged again in 1559 by Scottish Protestants as part of t ...
Founded: 1227 | Location: Balmerino, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.