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Holyrood Palace and Abbey remain a breathtaking ruin, steeped in history

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 31st, 2011
Catholic Online (

Holyrood Palace, which is also called the Palace of Holyroodhouse is in Edinburgh, and is the primary royal residence in Scotland. The palace was built next the Augustinian Holyrood Abbey. The palace itself has several fascinating historical sights, steeped in bloodshed and drama involving the British monarchy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I for the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, who came from St. Andrews. The abbey endured no less than two pillages at the hands of two English kings -- the army of Edward II plundered it in 1322, and it was burnt in 1305 by Richard II, but soon restored.

King James I of Scotland's twin sons, of whom the younger succeeded his father as James II, were both born within the abbey in 1430. Mary of Gueldres, queen of James II, was crowned in the abbey church in 1449.

It was in the 16th century that James IV built Holyrood Palace next to the abbey. Only the north tower of James's palace remains, as what remains today was mostly built by Charles II in 1670.

In 1547 the conventual buildings, as well as the choir, lady chapel, and transepts of the church were destroyed by the commissioners of the English Protector Somerset, and 20 years later John Knox's "rascal multitude" sacked the interior of the church in a Protestant frenzy.

Among the most dramatic events to take place there took place after the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots married her cousin Lord Darnley in the Holyrood Abbey church on July 22, 1565.

The following year, Mary Queen of Scots' Italian secretary -- and suspected lover, David Rizzio, was murdered by her jealous husband and friends in the stairwell of the royal apartments. The Queen witnessed the brutal event and she believed it was intended to make her miscarry her child. She did not, and her son was the future King James. A plaque, along with a bloodstain still visible on the floor marks the spot where Rizzio died.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse suffered long periods of neglect, but enjoyed brief glory in the mid-18th century as the headquarters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the peak of his feverish -- and doomed -- rebellion to restore the Stuart line to the monarchy.

All that remains of the once famous Holyrood Abbey church is the ruined and roofless nave of the purest Early English architecture, with some remains of the earlier Norman work. It is nevertheless an interesting and atmospheric ruin that is worth visiting.

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