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Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace, Holyrood Abbey

Abbey (Medieval), Church (12th Century), Coffin(S) (Medieval)

Site Name Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace, Holyrood Abbey

Classification Abbey (Medieval), Church (12th Century), Coffin(S) (Medieval)

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

Canmore ID 52381

Site Number NT27SE 35.01

NGR NT 26940 73964

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/52381

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images


First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

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

REFERENCE: PLANS

Dick Peddie & MacKay, Edinburgh student drawings

Attic 2, Bin 35, Bag 3 J R MacKay

HOLYROOD ABBEY DRAWINGS

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

REFERENCE: NMRS LIBRARY

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'

REFERENCE: SCOTTISH RECORD OFFICE

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

Activities

Publication Account (1981)

An apocryphal story surrounds the foundation of the Abbey of the Holy Rood. According to the tradition, David I while out hunting under Arthur's Seat was attacked by a stag which had between his antlers a holy cross, which the King took and the stag vanished at the Rood Well. That same night, by a vision in his sleep, the king was ordered to found an Abbey of Canons Regular at the very spot where the stag had surrendered the cross to him. King David obeyed the directions of the vision and the foundations of the Abbey were laid in 1128 ( ESC, 1905, 383)

The site chosen for the Abbey was at the lower east end of the rocky ridge that tails down from the castle. It was fairly level ground, but boggy, infertile and unhealthy until foirly recent times. The original structure that was laid out in 1128 was apparently cruciform in shape and unaisled except for a chapel aisle on the eastern side of each transept.

In the second half of the twelfth century, it was decided to rebuild the abbey church on a much grander scale. That project took two centuries to complete. The new building comprised a nave of eight bays with western towers, north and south transepts, each of two bays with an eastern aisle. In addition, there was a large choir of six bays including a Lady Chapel two bays wide (RCAM, 1951, 130). The site also included the necessary domestic quarters, infirmary, offices, guest house, and abbot's house (Richardson, 1950, 4).

In 1544 the Abbey was burned and looted by the English, and it suffered further damage during an attack in 1547. After 1570 the commendator of the Abbey allowed the ruinous choir and transepts to be pulled down and money arising from the sale of the material to be used to repair and refurbish the nave which contained the parish church. With that, the church was immediately reduced to its present proportions (RCAM, 1951, 131). Further alterations were carried out on the church in preparation for Charles l's coronation there in 1633. His son, James VII, declared the church a chapel royal and fitted it up as a Catholic place of worship. Canongate residents were thus denied the right to worship in their centuries-old parish church. Upon the news of the Glorious Revolution and the fall of James VII, a mob stormed the chapel, destroying every emblem of the Catholic faith as well as desecrating the royal tombs (Bryce, 1914, xliii). In December 1768, the roof, which had been rebuilt ten years earlier, suddenly gave way bringing down also the clerestory, the roof of the northern aisle and most of the flying arches (Bryce, 1914, .xliv).

Information from ‘Historic Edinburgh, Canongate and Leith: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).

Excavation (1995)

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

Project (1997)

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (http://www.pmsa.org.uk/) set up a National Recording Project in 1997 with the aim of making a survey of public monuments and sculpture in Britain ranging from medieval monuments to the most contemporary works. Information from the Edinburgh project was added to the RCAHMS database in October 2010 and again in 2012.

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Edinburgh Sculpture Project has been supported by Eastern Photocolour, Edinburgh College of Art, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland, the Hope Scott Trust, The Old Edinburgh Club, the Pilgrim Trust, the RCAHMS, and the Scottish Archive Network.

Aerial Photography (17 January 1998)

Aerial Photography (20 February 2007)

Standing Building Recording (2013)

NT 26940 73964 The most interesting stones in this collection are the late medieval tomb-slabs, and although some are very weathered, some well executed details remain on others. HOL/ts/1a+b forms the top left hand and right hand corners of an incised slab. This would have belonged to a churchman, with the remains of a cross-head, together with a chalice and a shield containing three fleurs-de-lis(?). The identity of the individual is unknown, as an inscription running around the outer edge is illegible.

The upper part of another slab is found in a pair of stones, HOL/ts/6-7. Together, the late medieval fragments depict a tree set above a shield of arms. The quartered shield bears three florettes and a ship. The shield has a crown above and is flanked by a pair of stags, each of which wears a harness, the lower ends of which entwine in a decorative knot below the shield.

This and other inventories of carved stones at Historic Scotland’s properties in care are held by Historic Scotland’s Collections Unit. For further information please contact hs.collections@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Mary Márkus, Archetype, 2013

(Source: DES)

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