Discovering Albion – day 6 – Dunfermline Abbey

scotland trip jan 15 278They were locking the door on half of the Abbey Church as we arrived. The new bit, built on the site of the old choir, was opened in 1821 and houses the tombs of Queen Margaret (later canonised as St Margaret), King David I and King Robert the Bruce who fought to re-establish Scotland as an independent nation and defeated the English army at the battle of Bannockburn. Around the top of the tower he is remembered in stone.

scotland trip jan 15 314
Robert the Bruce died in 1329 and, following his wishes, was interred in Dunfermline Abbey beside his queen, in front of the high altar. His heart was removed and placed in a silver casket by Sir James Douglas, who is said to have worn it round his neck and took it to the Crusades. In battle he threw the casket into the fray, crying, “Now pass thou onward before us, as thou wert wont, and I will follow thee or die.” Die he did, but the casket was recovered and the heart taken home to be buried at Melrose Abbey as the King had wished.

scotland trip jan 15 226
Both body and heart were lost over time, but both were found during building works. The body, still covered in cloth of gold, was eventually reinterred in the Abbey Church in 1819, and the heart in 1998, two years after its rediscovery at Melrose. Dunfermline holds a special place in the heart of Scotland.

scotland trip jan 15 264However, it wasn’t the new bit, but the old we had really come to see. The original priory had been founded in the 11th century, during the reign of King Malcom III and his wife, who later became St Margaret, the Pearl of Scotland. Their son, King David, endowed the church as an Abbey and in 1128 he built the church. In the floor the outlines of St Margaret’s original early priory and the Culdee church are marked.

scotland trip jan 15 269The great carved pillars, unequal in diameter and each different, are said to be very similar to those at Durham cathedral… which we were to see for ourselves few days later. They are, we found, not dissimilar to those at Selby either. The old and the new are built as one now, past and future meeting to signal a continuity of faith on this site that stretches back a thousand years.

scotland trip jan 15 224The nave still stands, supported from the outside by massive buttresses, from the inside by the gigantic columns, two carved with the distinctive chevrons of Norman architecture that are echoed in window and door and two with a spiral pattern. Later stained glass sits high in the walls, framed by ornate Norman arches.

scotland trip jan 15 258Perhaps the most surprising discovery was a painted ceiling in the aisle of the nave. Dating back to around 1500 it shows the four Apostles. It is thought the painting would once have covered the entire ceiling. It is an odd, imposing place. No windows at ground level, only set high in the walls where the light streams in… but no warmth. We were frozen and escaped into a cold and icy January afternoon to warm up.

scotland trip jan 15 320We wandered over to the ruins, looking out over the refectory and up the guard tower, accompanied by yet another robin. There was too much to see for a brief visit… we would have to think about coming back. Preferably in warmer weather. Though of course, the bitter chill had meant we had the place to ourselves. scotland trip jan 15 294The whole trip was beginning to have a familiar feel. Our usual modus operandi frequently involves the concept of the ‘raid’… falling over something, doing a recce, letting it sink in and the dots join up in historical and symbolic terms… then deciding we’d have to go back. Not that a trip to Scotland is ever a hardship, of course. And we had no idea what we might fall over next…

scotland trip jan 15 330

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in adventure, Ancient sites, Churches, History, Photography, scotland road trip and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Discovering Albion – day 6 – Dunfermline Abbey

  1. amoafowaa says:

    Wow! What beautiful pictures.


  2. it’s sum’thing we do better than most…real history! 🙂


  3. noelleg44 says:

    What a fabulous church, old and new. Loved the stonework.


  4. I love the fact that the “new” part was built in 1821. Fabulous. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.