Paisley Abbey

Paisley, United Kingdom

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, the first High Steward of Scotland issued a charter for a priory to be set up on land owned by him in Paisley. It was dedicated to SS. Mary, James, Mirin and Milburga. Around 13 monks came from the Cluniac priory at Much Wenlock in Shropshire to found the community. Paisley grew so rapidly that it was raised to the status of abbey in 1245. Monks from Paisley founded Crossraguel Abbey in 1244.

In 1307, Edward I of England had the abbey burned down. It was rebuilt later in the 14th century. William Wallace, born in nearby Elderslie, is believed to have been educated in the abbey for some time when he was a boy.

In 1316, Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert I of Scotland and wife of Walter Stewart, the sixth High Steward of Scotland, was out riding near the abbey. During the ride, she fell from her horse and as she was heavily pregnant at the time, she was taken to Paisley Abbey for medical care. There, King Robert II was born by caesarean section, in a time when anaesthesia would not have been available. She was later buried at the abbey. A cairn, at the junction of Dundonald Road and Renfrew Road, approximately 2 kilometres to the north of the Abbey, marks the spot where she reputedly fell from her horse.

In 1491, absolution was granted by Abbot George Shaw, representing the Pope and in the presence of the relics, to James IV of Scotland and others implicated in the death of James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn. By 1499 Shaw had had built a new, larger pilgrims' chapel and added the sculptured stone frieze which can still be seen today, showing scenes from the life of St Miren. It was originally brightly painted and may have been part of a rear panel of an altar before being put up as a frieze on the wall.

A succession of fires and the collapse of the tower in the 15th and 16th centuries left the building in a partially ruined state. Although the western section was still used for worship, the eastern section was widely plundered for its stone. From 1858 to 1928 the north porch and the eastern choir were reconstructed on the remains of the ruined walls by the architect Macgregor Chalmers. After his death, work on the choir was completed by Sir Robert Lorimer.

Paisley Abbey is the burial place of all six High Stewards of Scotland, Marjorie Bruce who was the mother of Robert II, and the wives of Robert II and King Robert III. The Celtic Barochan Cross, once sited near the village of Houston, Renfrewshire, is now inside the abbey itself. The cross is thought to date from the 10th century. In the abbey's nave, the Wallace Memorial Window, which depicts the image of Samson, was donated in 1873.

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Founded: 1163
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sandy McFadyean (12 months ago)
Stunning building with some incredible history attached to it. Well worth a visit. It looks like it's staffed by volunteers who were very friendly, welcoming and helpful. Brilliant afternoon.
Petra Kučerová (15 months ago)
Amazing place, but I would appreciate longer opening hours. When you work every day or go to school it is almost impossible to fit in the time.
Lynn Smith (2 years ago)
Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and very very old. 1100's
Tramping Across Britain (2 years ago)
Extraordinary both on the outside and inside. There are also countless little finer details to the building worth seeing if you’re paying close attention. Hard to believe that it’s almost 800 years old, right in the centre of Paisley.
Jilly Malone (2 years ago)
This is a beautiful old abbey, steeped in history. We walked around the ground floor and had a look at the gift shop on the garden after it. It’s a lovely building to go and visit if you’re in Paisley
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