Holyrood Abbey

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Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey of the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland. The abbey (which is sited in the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which it predates) was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland.


Etymology of name

Rood is an old word for a type of Christian cross, bearing a lower cross-bar as well as the main upper cross-bar. It therefore means the cross which Jesus Christ was crucified upon; thus the name Holyrood is equivalent to "Holy Cross." The name is more commonly pronounced as Holly-rood as well as the less commonly used Holy-rood.


Legend relates that in 1127, while King David I was hunting in the forests to the east of Edinburgh during the Feast of the Cross, he was thrown from his horse after it had been startled by a hart. According to variations of the story, the king was saved from being gored by the charging animal when it was startled either by the miraculous appearance of a holy cross descending from the skies, or by sunlight reflected from a crucifix which suddenly appeared between the hart's antlers while the king attempted to grasp them in self-defence. As an act of thanksgiving for his escape, David I founded Holyrood Abbey on the site in 1128[1]. The abbey was originally served by a community of Augustinian Canons Regular from Merton Priory. The layout of the abbey is clearly based on that building[2]

The original abbey church of Holyrood was largely reconstructed between 1195 and 1230[4]. The completed building consisted of a six-bay aisled choir, three-bay transepts with a central tower above, and an eight-bay aisled nave with twin towers at its west front.[5]

The Parliament of Scotland met at the abbey in 1256, 1285, 1327, 1366, 1384, 1389 and 1410, and the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton, which brought an end to the First War of Scottish Independence, was signed by Robert I in the "King's Chamber" at Holyrood in March 1328. The abbey's position close to Edinburgh Castle meant that it was often visited by Scotland's kings, who were lodged in the guest house situated to the west of the abbey cloister. In the mid-15th century, with the emergence of Edinburgh as the main seat of the royal court and the chief city in the kingdom, the Kings of Scots increasingly used the accommodation at Holyrood for secular purposes. James II and his twin brother Alexander, Duke of Rothesay were born there in October 1430. James was also crowned at Holyrood in 1437 and building works were carried out before his marriage there in 1449.[6][7] Between 1498 and 1501, James IV constructed a royal palace at Holyrood, adjacent to the abbey cloister. Royal influence over the abbey further increased when in 1538 Robert Stewart, the infant, illegitimate son of James V, was appointed as commendator of Holyrood.[8][9]

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