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Melrose Abbey

Cistercian Abbey just north of the Scottish Border - Dedicated 1146

One of Scottish King David's (c 1083 - 1124 - 1153 (70)) Border Abbeys


Links to the Border Abbeys of Dryburg and Jedburg






Welcome to Melrose Abey







The original site of Melrose Abbey was just below "Scott's View" (above), surrounded on three sides by the River Tweed, with the 3 heather topped Eildon Hills as a backdrop.  The lookout and view are now named after Sir Walter Scott (whose tomb is in Dryburgh Abbey).  This early abbey was founded by St Aidan in about A.D. 660, it's first prior was St Boisil, one of whose succesors was St Cuthbert, the Saint of the Borders, who dwelt there until 664 when he took over Lindesfarne


In 1131, David I, King of Scots (c 1083 - 1124 - 1153 (70)) , persuaded the Cistercians to found a new abbey on a new site a couple of miles away.  The new abbey was dedicated on Sunday 28 July 1146.


This second abbey lasted until it was pillaged and burned to the ground by the English forces of Richard II (son of the Black Prince who knew more than most about mindless destruction) in the mid 1380s.  From the ashes rose a beautiful gothic abbey and monastic complex, the ruins of which survive today. 


Some time after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries (late 1530s) the abbey's choir was restructured into a parish church, with an heavy artless barrel vault - one side resting on a huge wall in the middle of the choir.  At least the builders had the grace not to knock down the delicate ribbed gothic vaulting of the much earlier and much more skilled Cistercian builders.







Looking east down what was the nave.  The cloister was on the left.  The choir and crossing were converted in a very ho-hum way to a parish church.



Corner of the huge cloister square at the crossing on the north side of the abbey church.


Moving round the south side (from the west) ....








A red "green man".









Flying buttresses support the walls of the crossing.

Melrose is the only UK abbey ruin we have seen with a profusion of surviving faces ... plus at least three Cistercian Green Men.






Two green men - the one on the left looks like a relative newcomer.






This mostly unnoticed Green Man makes you realize how artless most of his more hyped cousins elsewhere in the UK are .... he has a close relative in Santes Creus in Catelonia.




Bagpipe playing pigs are relatively commonplace in corbels and misericords in large medieval British churches - we know not why!




This roof crawler must have died in situ!




The crawlers on the roof of the Basilique St-Remi in Reims are a more inquisitive species.












Scottish King Robert I  (1274 - 1306 - 1329 (55)) ("Robert the Bruce") rebuilt the Scottish Kingdom from English domination, and on 24 June 1314 his army defeated the English at Bannockburn, near Stirling. 


When he died in 1329 his body was buried at Dunfermline. His heart was removed and taken on the Crusades by the Black Douglas (his comrade in arms Sir James Douglas), who, just before he was killed in Moorish Spain, hurled it at the enemy.  The heart was recovered and taken back to Melrose Abbey where the new king, David II (Bruce's son), had asked for it to be buried.


Recent excavations around the old Chapter House location uncovered a sealed lead container, presumed to have the remains of the legendary King's heart in it, and it was reinterred under this stone.



Wikipedia page on Melrose Abbey           Melrose Abbey in "About Scotland"



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