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Leuchars, Schoolhill, St Athernase Parish Church

Church (12th Century)

Site Name Leuchars, Schoolhill, St Athernase Parish Church

Classification Church (12th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Leuchars Church;

Canmore ID 33187

Site Number NO42SE 1

NGR NO 45542 21394

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Leuchars
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO42SE 1.00 45542 21394

(NO 4555 2139) Church (NAT)

OS 6" map (1921).

NO42SE 1.01 NO 45542 21377 Churchyard

The chancel and apse of the parish church of Leuchars must be considered among the best of the few examples of Romanesque buildings in Scotland. the rest of the church is modern.

The chancel is almost square; the apse is ceiled with a vault, the timber roof above which was removed in the 17th century and replaced by a bell-turrett. The original masonry is of cubical ashlar. The "church of Lochres" appears among the possessions of the Priory of St. Andrews in a papal confirmation of 1187, but has no place in one of 1183. The possible period of erection would thus seem to be within the period 1183-87, and this date accords with the features of the structure.

While still in its original condition, it was dedicated by Bishop Bernham in 1244, but the record does not give the name of the saint, who is usually said to have been Athernaise or Erthernise.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7; RCAHMS 1933.

Leuchars church is as described above and is in use as a place of public worship.

Visited by OS (DS), 19 October 1956

Above report confirmed.

Visited by OS (RDL), 5 June 1964.

Architecture Notes

NO42SE 1.00 45542 21394

ARCHITECT: Reginald Fairlie, 1914. Completion of Church. (not carried out)

Reginald Fairlie, 1922. Restoration 1914 Font.

NMRS Print Room

Leuchars, Parish Church

3 prints - interior view into the chancel

W Schomberg Scott Photograph Collection

Acc No 1997/39



Repair of roof and choir of Kirk. Letters of horning at the instance of the minister of the Kirk, against the parishioners that they meet and settle taxes to be raised for this purpose.


GD 1/150


Country Life, 12th May 1944

This site was recorded as part of the LBRP for 2002-03.

For details, see the RCAHMS Inventory for Fife and the entry in the CRSBI.

Information from RCAHMS

(NMC) November 2002


Antiquarian Observation (1857 - 1861)

Mason's marks from Scottish churches, abbeys and castles recorded between 1857 and 1861 on 29 drawings in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Publication Account (1987)

Leuchars Church is possibly the finest Romanesque church in Scotland, dramatically sited on a mound in the centre of the village. It appears to have been erected between 1183 and 1187 and was dedicated by Bishop Bernham in 1244. Only the chancel and apse survive of the original building, a new nave having been added in the 19th century. The chancel is almost square and the chancel arch is off-centre. This is further accentuated by the nave being off-set to the north. The apse is vaulted and the original timber roof was removed in the 17th century and replaced by an octagonal bell-turret surmounted by a lead weather-vane. The wall-heads are brought forward on corbels carved with heads of monsters, oxen, rams and human grotesques.

The church was rather crudely altered in the 17th century when new windows were slapped through the blind arcading of the chancel. The wall-head of the nave of the 17th century was lower than the wall-head of the chancel. These alterations were recorded in a sketch by David Roberts, RA, in 1831. The restoration of the church was carried out by Dr Reginald Fairlie. He also appears to have heightened the belfry, changing the plan form of the upper section and reforming the vault There has been considerable discussion as to whether the bell-turret should be removed and replaced by a more conventional timber roof. This would be counter-productive as much of the charm of this small building is derived from the unorthodox juxtaposition of elements from various periods.

There are some fine 16th century tombstones in the graveyard.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).


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