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Pluscarden Priory

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Founded in 1230 by Alexander III , King of Scotland, six miles from Elgin, Morayshire, for monks of the Valliscaulian Order, whose mother-house was that of Val-des-Choux, Burgundy. Pluscarden was the first of the three Scottish monasteries of the order whose observance was a combination of the Carthusian and Cistercian rule. In 1454 Nicholas V transferred the two surviving monks of the Benedictine priory of Urquhart to form one community with the six monks of Pluscarden, the latter assuming the Benedictine rule and habit. Pluscarden thus became a dependency of Dunfermline Abbey, whose sacrist, William de Boyis, was appointed prior. Mr. Macphail, a non-Catholic, refutes the calumny that the union was due to the "very licentious" lives of the Valliscaulian monks. The last prior, Alexander Dunbar, died in 1560, and Alexander Seton, later Earl of Dunfermline, a secret Catholic, became commendator; in consequence the monks were never dispersed. They numbered thirteen in 1524; in1586 one still survived. After various vicissitudes the property was acquired by John, third Marquess of Bute, who partially restored the buildings. The nave of the church was never completed. The aisleless choir (56 feet long), and the transepts (measuring 92 feet), are roofless. In the north wall of the chancel is a "sacrament house" — the stone tabernacle occasionally met with in Scottish churches. Stone steps connect the transept with the dormitory. Consecration crosses and the remains of interesting frescoes are still visible. A northern chapel was added by Prior Dunbar; with this exception the architecture is chiefly Early English. East of the cloister garth — 100 feet square — stands the calefactory, its vaulted roof upheld by two pillars; this long served for a Presbyterian kirk. The well preserved chapter-house has stone benches round the walls, and a central pillar supports the groining. The dormitory above was formerly used as a tenants' ballroom. The buildings, standing in lovely surroundings, are full of charm. Some holly trees in the garden are probably relics of monastic days.


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