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Scotland's Melrose Abbey lies in ruins after reformation

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2011
Catholic Online (

Melrose Abbey, a Cistercian abbey in the Borders region of Scotland is now little more than picturesque ruins. Founded in 1136, it is said to enshrine the heart of Robert the Bruce.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The abbey was originally founded at Melrose around the end of the 6th century and was later ruined by the Danes. The place where the old abbey is supposed to have stood is called Old Melrose, a mile and a half from the present abbey.

Melrose Abbey as it is known today was founded by king David of Scotland in 1136, and is supposed to have been built in ten years. It was the mother church of the Cistertian order in Scotland.

The abbey was damaged by the English in 1322 and 1384. Richard II made it a grant in 1389, as some compensation for the injuries it had sustained in the retreat of his army.

Twenty years before the Reformation, there were 120 monks at Melrose Abbey and the possessions of the abbey were extensive.

In 1544, King Henry VIII had Melrose Abbey set aflame, and it never recovered. Sixty of the monks are reported to have renounced Catholicism at the Reformation. By 1560, the abbey had ceased to function, its holdings given up in 1561. Its carvings were destroyed by a Protestant mob following the deposition of Mary, Queen of Scots and much of the abbey was carted off by locals needing building material.

Visitors should be aware that the best view of Melrose Abbey's exterior is from the southeast side. The Gothic abbey is built in the form of St. John's cross, with a considerable part of its principal tower now in ruins.

There are still many very superb windows; the principal one at the east end appears to have been more recently built than the others. The beauty of the carved work, with which the abbey is profusely decorated, is seldom equaled, and has been deservedly celebrated by poets over the years.

Alexander II and many of the Scottish kings and nobles are also buried at Melrose. Robert the Bruce's heart is believed to be enshrined in the abbey. A plaque marks its location.

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