Dunfermline Abbey

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Dunfermline Abbey is a large Benedictine abbey in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. It was administered by the Abbot of Dunfermline. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland, but the monastic establishment was based on an earlier foundation dating back to the reign of King Máel Coluim mac Donnchada (i.e. "Malcolm III" or "Malcolm Canmore", r. 1058-93). Its first abbot was Geoffrey of Canterbury, former prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, the Kent religious house that probably supplied Dunfermline's first Benedictine monks. At the peak of its power it controlled four burghs, three courts of regality and a large portfolio of lands from Moray in the north down into Berwickshire.[1]

In the decades after its foundation the abbey gained power and wealth with the dedication of 26 altars gifted by individuals and guilds and was a lucrative centre of pilgrimage after Dunfermline became a centre for the well-promoted cult of St Margaret (Malcolm's wife and David's mother), from whom the monastery later claimed foundation and for which an earlier foundation charter was fabricated.

The foundations of the earliest church (the Church of the Holy Trinity) are under the present superb Romanesque nave built in the 12th century. The abbey was sacked in 1560 and permitted to fall into disrepair, although part of the church continued in use. Some parts of the abbey infrastructure still remain, principally the vast refectory and rooms over the gatehouse which was part of the former city wall. Next to the abbey is the ruin of Dunfermline Palace, also part of the original abbey complex and connected to it via the gatehouse.

Dunfermline Abbey, one of Scotland's most important cultural sites, has received more of Caledonia’s royal dead than any other place in the kingdom, excepting Iona. One of the most notable non-royal names to be associated with the abbey is the northern renaissance poet, Robert Henryson.

The tomb of Saint Margaret and Malcolm Canmore, within the ruined walls of the Lady chapel, was restored and enclosed by command of Queen Victoria.

During the winter of 1303 the court of Edward I of England was held in the abbey, and on his departure next year most of the buildings were burned. When the Reformers attacked the abbey church in March 1560, they spared the nave. This was repaired in 1570 by Robert Drummond of Carnock. It served as the parish church till the 19th century, and now forms the vestibule of the New church. This edifice, in the Perpendicular style, opened for public worship in 1821, occupies the site of the ancient chancel and transepts, though differing in style and proportions from the original structure.

The old building was a fine example of simple and massive Norman, as the nave testifies, and has a beautiful doorway in its west front. Another rich Norman doorway was exposed in the south wall in 1903, when masons were cutting a site for the memorial to the soldiers who had fallen in the Second Boer War. A new site was found for this monument in order that the ancient and beautiful entrance might be preserved. The venerable structure is maintained publicly, and private munificence has provided several stained-glass windows.

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