The parking ticket was heading towards its last hour as we headed for the remains of St Rule’s church within the Abbey precinct. The little church was built in AD1130 and although only a shell now remains, its tower still rises a hundred feet high above the frozen earth. And we were going to climb it. Of course we were. All a hundred and fifty-six steps.
The entrance is narrow and awkward through a rotating turnstile. It was tight even with a handbag and camera. Let’s just say that you wouldn’t want to get much broader in the beam before trying to get through. Which is really just as well because after a few modern steps, a short spiral of metal and a little half landing, you are climbing up a very narrow, winding staircase, with a long drop to the bottom.
You do, however, get to glimpse the ghost of the church… a bricked up doorway, and intriguing alcove, an armorial device surmounted by a cross… Then a little higher are the niches that would have held a statue… of St Andrew, perhaps, whose relics were once housed here until the religious upheavals of 1559 led to the destruction the shrine. The relics were lost… destroyed, removed or hidden. It is not known what happened to them, though the Roman Catholic Cathedral in the town now houses relics of the saint in the national shrine, gifted to St Andrews by the Archbishop of Amalfi and the Pope.
Higher still and the staircase narrows even further, making passing anyone on the stairs an interesting proposition. And of course, we had to, as there were workmen consolidating the mortar… several of them… we got to know them almost intimately as we squeezed precariously past, the workmen either flattened against the outer wall or dangling perilously from the centre of the spiral.
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