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A Brief Guide to Dunfermline Abbey

The following is from A Brief Guide to Dunfermline Abbey:

David's Nave


The north porch has a ribbed ceiling with sculptured keystones containing two defaced shields supported by angels with extended wings. One of the mural monuments records the virtues of Adam Rolland of Gask who bequeathed 1000 for the education of fifty poor children of the Burgh. In each wall there is a cavity, probably used for holding collection boxes.

Above the church door is a dedication stone erected at the suggestion of the late Rev. Dr Chalmers. The inscription is as follows :


Entering the Nave, on the right, is the monument erected to the memory of William Schaw, Architect to James VI. On the top is a monogram, and below an inscription in Latin. The monument was erected by Queen Anne of Denmark.

Two stone coffins, lying near the west door, were discovered in the centre of the Nave in 1849. The larger one contained a leather shroud which had been wrapped round the body and stitched with a thong from neck to heel and along the soles of the feet. Within were found fragments of bones and a little dark-coloured hair. The other coffin contained bones. The remains are said to be those of the Princes Edward and Ethelrede, sons of Malcolm and Margaret, who, originally, were interred near their mother. The shroud is preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities, Queen Street, Edinburgh, and there is a photograph of it at the entrance to the new part of the Abbey.

Looking to the east, there are six Norman pillars on each side of the Nave, with semi-circular arches supporting the inner wall. These columns are 20 feet in height, and 13 14 feet in circumference. Two of the pillars are incised with a chevron design, the result of which is to produce an optical illusion, and the pillars appear to be of unequal diameter from top to bottom. The side aisles are 11 feet wide, 29 feet high, and 92 feet long. The length of the Nave from the western door to the entrance to the new church is 106 feet, and the breadth 55 feet.

On looking upwards it will be noted that piers and arches support a triforium and clerestory. From these galleries, it is said, "the solemn processions in the nave of the church might be viewed."

The Rood Altar was placed above the line of the High Altar of St Margaret's Church, and facing west, would no doubt be visible from every part of the building. Its base was only detected in 1916.

Robert Pitcairn, Commendator of Dunfermline, Pope's Legate, and Secretary to James VI, was interred in the north aisle in 1584. He it was who had the following words carved on the building in the Maygate known as the "Abbot's House":


In the same aisle is the monument to George Durie, the last Abbot of Dunfermline. He held office from 1539 to 1560, and granted a charter to the town which was confirmed by James VI when Dunfermline was constituted a Royal Burgh. The name of George Durie is placed at the top of the memorial, and at the bottom are the Durie coat of arms and the letters H.D. and M.M. The initials refer to Henry, the son of George Durie, and of Margaret Macbeth his wife. In the family records it is stated that this Margaret Macbeth cured Charles I of an illness in the Palace of Dunfermline in 1603.

The beautiful Durie Window in blue and yellow stained glass, with the motto "Confido," was erected in 1933, as also was a bronze plate at the base of the memorial giving details of members of the family. While the necessary alterations were proceeding an original dedication mark was discovered. This is in the form of a St Andrew's cross, measuring 4 inches by 4 inches, and may be seen in the stone work to the right of the memorial.

The remains of the Rev. Thomas Gillespie, the founder of the Relief Church of Scotland, are laid a little to the westward of Durie's monument. A marble monument is erected over the burial place of the Halketts of Pitfirrane.

In 1923, when workmen were cleaning the roof of the north (or St Mary's Aisle), they uncovered the original red and blue colouring, the design incorporating chevrons and fleur-de-lis.

A single consecration cross, dating from 1150, is cut on the shaft which supports the vaulting opposite the fifth pillar counting from the west end. It is a Greek cross with enlarged ends, and measures l inches by 8 inches.

In the south (or Rood Aisle), is a fine memorial window erected in 1860 in memory of "Queyne Anabelle Drummond spous to King Robert ye third, mother to King James the fyrst." The stained glass of this window was the first to be placed in the Nave. On the floor of this aisle will be seen a circular stone covering an old well. The ceiling of this aisle dates from 1620.

Over the west door is the large window now known as the Carnegie Window, the stained glass panels of which, showing Malcolm, Margaret, Bruce, and Wallace, were designed by Sir Noel Paton, and the cost borne by Mr Andrew Carnegie.

As was usual with Benedictine Abbey Churches, the parishioners worshipped in the part of the building just described (the "Outer Kirk"), but the clergy used the enclosed choir of the eastern (or "Inner Kirk"), which, also dating from the 12th century, stood on the site now occupied by the new church.

Queen Margaret, Malcolm Canmore, and Alexander I were all interred in the original church of Malcolm and Margaret, but David I, Malcolm IV, and Robert the Bruce were buried near the High Altar of the eastern church.

Altogether, within the precincts of the Abbey, there were buried 8 Kings, 4 Queens, 5 Princes, and 2 Princesses. When the Nave was in use as a Presbyterian place of worship from 1563 to 1821, the pulpit stood on the central pillar in the north row. It was made of oak and beautifully carved, and on it were the words "Who is sufficient for these things?"

Sir Walter Scott, while visiting Dunfermline in 1822, was so taken with the pulpit that he applied to the Heritors for it. His request was granted, and the pulpit was removed to Abbotsford, where it adorned the entrance hall.

The New Abbey Church--Exterior


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