Arbroath Abbey, in the Scottish town of Arbroath, was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court. It was William's only personal foundation — he was buried before the high altar of the church in 1214.
The last Abbot was Cardinal David Beaton, who in 1522 succeeded his uncle James to become Archbishop of St Andrews. The Abbey is cared for by Historic Scotland and is open to the public throughout the year (entrance charge). The distinctive red sandstone ruins stand at the top of the High Street in Arbroath.
King William gave the Abbey independence from its mother church and endowed it generously, including income from 24 parishes, land in every royal burgh and more. The Abbey's monks were allowed to run a market and build a harbour. King John of England gave the Abbey permission to buy and sell goods anywhere in England (except London) toll-free.
The Abbey, which was the richest in Scotland, is most famous for its association with the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, believed to have been drafted by Abbot Bernard, who was the Chancellor of Scotland under King Robert I.
Since 1947, a major historical re-enactment commemorating the Declaration's signing has been held within the roofless remains of the Abbey church. The celebration and many other events are now run by the Arbroath Abbey Timethemes a local charity, and tells the story of the events which led up to the signing. This is not an annual event; the most recent performances have been in August 2000 and 2005 but more are planned. However, a special event to mark the signing is held every year on the 6th of April and involves a street procession and short piece of street theatre.
The Abbey fell into ruin after the Reformation. From 1590 onward, its stones were raided for buildings in the town of Arbroath. This continued until 1815 when steps were taken to preserve the remaining ruins.
On Christmas Day 1950, the Stone of Destiny was stolen from Westminster Abbey. On April 11, 1951, the missing stone was found lying on the site of the Abbey's altar.
In 2005 The Arbroath Abbey campaign was launched. The campaign seeks to gain World Heritage Status for the iconic Angus landmark that was the birthplace of one of Scotland's most significant documents, The Declaration of Arbroath. Campaigners believe that the Abbey’s historical pronouncement makes it a prime candidate to achieve World Heritage Status. MSP Alex Johnstone wrote "Clearly, the Declaration of Arbroath is a literary work of outstanding universal significance by any stretch of the imagination" In 2008, the Campaign Group Chairman, Councillor Jim Millar launched a public petition to reinforce the bid explaining "We're simply asking people to, local people especially, to sign up to the campaign to have the Declaration of Arbroath and Arbroath Abbey recognised by the United Nations. Essentially we need local people to sign up to this campaign simply because the United Nations demand it."
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