Place:Scone Abbey, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland


NameScone Abbey
Coordinates56.424722°N 3.435833°W
Located inScone, Perthshire, Scotland

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Scone Abbey (originally, Scone Priory) was a house of Augustinian canons based at Scone, Perthshire (Gowrie), Scotland. Varying dates for the foundation have been used ranging between 1114 and 1122. However, historians have long believed that Scone was a center of the early medieval Christian cult, the Culdees (Céli Dé in medieval Irish) meaning "Companions of God". Very little is known about the Culdees but it is thought that a cult may have been worshiping at Scone from as early as 700. Archaeological surveys taken in 2007 suggest that Scone was a site of real significance prior to Kenneth MacAlpin bringing the Stone of Destiny, Scotland's most prized relic and coronation stone, to Scone in 841.

The priory was established by six canons from Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire, under the leadership of Prior Robert, who was the first prior of Scone (later bishop of St Andrews). The foundation charter, dated 1120, was once thought to be spurious but is now regarded as being of late 12th-century origin, perhaps the copying owing to the fire which occurred there sometime before 1163 (it would experience a similar destruction of records during the Wars of Scottish Independence).

In either 1163 or 1164, in the reign of King Máel Coluim IV, Scone Priory's status was increased and it became an abbey. The abbey had important royal functions, being next to the coronation site of Scottish kings and housing the Stone of Destiny (until it was stolen by King Edward I of England). Scone Abbey was, in the words of King Máel Coluim IV, "in principali sede regni nostri" (RRS, no. 243; trs. "in the principal seat of our kingdom"), and as such was one of the chief residences of the Scottish kings. The Abbot would play host to the king whilst he resided at Scone, most likely accommodating the king within the Abbot's own rooms within the Abbot's Palace. It is very likely that the abbey buildings (now gone) overlapped with the modern palace.

The abbey also had relics of the now obscure St Fergus, which made it a popular place of pilgrimage. Although the abbey would remain famous for its music (Robert Carver, in the 16th century was producing some of Europe's best late medieval choral music) its status declined over time. After the reformation in 1559, Scottish abbeys disappeared as institutions; although not overnight as some suggest. The abbey at Scone continued to function well into the 17th century; there are documents which described repairs made to the spire of the abbey church dating from 1620. Scone Abbey and parish was formed in the late 16th century into a secular lordship and finally ceased to function around 1640.

Scone became a secular lordship, first for the Earl of Gowrie, and then for Sir David Murray of Gospertie. The property and lordship have been in the possession of the Murrays of Scone ever since, this branch of the Murray clan becoming the Earls of Mansfield.

Scone Abbey flourished for over four hundred years. In 1559 during the early days of the Scottish Reformation it fell victim to a mob from Dundee who were whipped into a zealous frenzy by the great reformer John Knox. The abbey was badly damaged despite Knox's attempt to calm the mob as they approached Perth. Despite this setback the Abbey was repaired and continued to function for a further 80 years. In 1580 the abbey estates were granted to Lord Ruthven, later the Earl of Gowrie, who held extensive estates in Scotland: including Ruthven Castle near Perth (now called Huntingtower Castle) and Dirleton Castle. The Ruthvens rebuilt the Abbot's Palace of the old abbey as a grand residence in 1580. In 1600, James VI charged the family with treason after the Gowrie Conspiracy, banning the use of the name "Ruthven" and confiscating their estates. The Gowrie lands at Scone including the Abbot's Palace were granted to Sir David Murray of Gospetrie, later 1st Lord Scone and Viscount Stormont, as a reward for interceding on the King's behalf to quell the people of Perth in the chaotic aftermath of the Gowrie Conspiracy.

The precise location of Scone Abbey had long remained a mystery, but in 2007 archaeologists pinpointed the location using magnetic resonance imaging technology. The find revealed the structure to have been somewhat larger than had been imagined and revealed that the Moot Hill had at some point been surrounded by a ditch and palisade; marking it out not as a defensive position but as a hugely significant sanctum within which Kings professed their vows to the people of Scotland. A stylised illustration of the Abbey on one of its seals suggests that it was a major Romanesque building, with a central tower crowned with a spire.


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