Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace, Holyrood Abbey

Abbey, Church, Coffin(s) (medieval)

Site Name Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace, Holyrood Abbey

Classification Abbey, Church, Coffin(s) (medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Holyrood Abbey Church; Palace Of Holyrood; Palace Of Holyroodhouse

Canmore ID 52381

Site Number NT27SE 35.1

NGR NT 26940 73964

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 35.01 26940 73964

(Centred NT 2696 7398) Ruins of Abbey Church AD 1128 (NR) Nave (NR) Choir (NR).

OS 25"map, (1931).

The Abbey of Holyrood was founded in 1128 by David I for Augustinian Canons.

All that survives above ground is the ruined nave as repaired and consolidated by HMoW in 1911. Foundations of vanished choir and transepts were found in course of this work and left open for inspection. Within the area of the choir and nave remains of the original 12th century abbey church were found.

In the latter part of the 12th century it was decided to rebuild the church on a more sumptious scale which was developed during the next two centuries. It comprised a nave of 8 bays with western towers; N and S transepts each of two bays with an E chapel-aisle; and an aisled choir of 6 bays including a lady chapel.

In 1544 and 1547 the abbey was burnt and looted by Hertford's troops and in 1570 the choir and transepts were pulled down and the remaining portion of the nave was repaired and the church reduced to its present dimensions.

RCAHMS 1951.

No additional remarks.

Visited by OS(JLD) 31 December 1953.

NT 269 740 During the upgrading of the Victorian boilerhouse, human remains were uncovered. Excavation by GUARD revealed the remains of a minimum of 38 individuals from two main phases of burial which form part of the medieval and post-medieval cemetery at the abbey church. The initial phase of burial was badly disturbed by a large pit. After this filled up, a layer of building rubble and debris covered the site; this included fragments of mortar, stained glass, lead came and architectural fragments. Through this a second phase of burials were dug.

Two coins from the reign of Edward I/II deposited c.1330 were recovered including one from a burial. A copper jetton or counter was also recovered; this was minted in France in the 14th-15th centuries.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

S Bain 1995

NT 2696 7398 An area in the NW corner of the nave was excavated in May and June 2001 to ascertain the nature of the upper deposits and the cause of drainage problems. Features excavated and recorded included gravels, drainage, graves, a medieval deposit and wall foundations. Recommendations were made to alleviate the drainage problems.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Radley and G Ewart 2001

c NT 269 739 A watching brief was undertaken in April 2005 during the excavation of extensive trenches in the gardens around the Palace of Holyroodhouse (NT27SE 35.00) and the abbey (NT27SE 35.01). The archaeological potential of these areas was somewhat limited by the extensive landscaping works undertaken in the gardens over the last two centuries, although there was a higher chance of encountering buried features near the ruinous abbey. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

D Stewart 2005

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 35.01 26940 73964


Dick Peddie & MacKay, Edinburgh student drawings

Attic 2, Bin 35, Bag 3 J R MacKay


NMRS Photographic Survey of drawings for Holyrood Abbey in the collection of Ancient Monuments branch, SDD and transferred to the Scottish Record Office including: survey drawings by James Gillespie Graham 1832; designs for restoration and additions by James Gillespie Graham and A W N Pugin 1837 and a set of working drawings for the restoration by James Gillespie Graham 1837.

Copied 1979 Inventory 116


Scottish Country Life, June 1929, page 194 -photograph

NMRS Print Room

Inglis Photograph Collection, Acc No 1994/90

Chapel Royal in 1660, 2 views (as in Vitruvious Scoticus)

2 views of the ruined interior (5 prints, incl. AI 52)

2 different details of sculpture and 1 of slab tombs

engraving 'ruins of the chapel of Holyroodhouse'


Peal of bells for the Church of Holyroodhouse. Royal letter to the Earl of Mar, Treasurer, about the use of two broken cannock to make a peal of bells.

1629 GD/124/10/352

Restoration of the Chapel of Holyrood Palace. Letter to the Marquis of Breadalbane from James Gillespie Graham, architect. He asks that the matter of Restoration be drawn to the Queen's attention.

1842 GD/112/20/5



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