Places to Visit in Scotland
- Paisley Abbey
The charter to establish the priory at Paisley, seven miles from Glasgow, was signed in 1163 by Walter FitzAlan, in Fotheringay Castle in England (the same place at which Mary Queen of Scots was to be beheaded, over 400 years later). The priory, which was sited on a church founded by St Mirin around 560AD, was raised to the status of abbey in 1245.
The FitzAlans, originally from Brittany, had come with King David I> to Scotland and were given lands in Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. Six generations of the family were the hereditary High Stewards of Scotland. Walter, the sixth to hold the office, married Marjory, daughter of Robert the Bruce> in 1315. Marjory died within a year of the marriage, following a riding accident but her baby was born by a crude form of caesarean section and became Robert II, the first of the Stewart monarchs.
All six of the High Stewards are buried in the Abbey (see graphic on the left) and Marjory's tomb is in the Abbey too. There is also a memorial to Robert III> (graphic on the right) who is buried in the Abbey. This was gifted by Queen Victoria.
In 1307, the original abbey was burned down by King Edward I of England, who liked to call himself the "Hammer of the Scots".
Little remains of that first abbey but it was completely rebuilt later in the 14th century. In succeeding centuries, fires and the collapse of a tower caused considerable damage and parts of the abbey lay open to the skies for 350 years.
It was not until the 19th century that it was reroofed and a number of walls were restored. As recently as 1980/81, a new timber ceiling was erected in the nave to replace a "temporary" plaster ceiling of 1788.
The Abbey is extremely long - 279 feet from the West Door to the East Window.
Inside, the Abbey contains a large number of noteworthy features such as:
~ The Celtic Barochan Cross (pictured here) which used to stand on a hilltop near Houston, Renfrewshire.
~ St Margaret window (Margaret> was the wife of Malcolm Canmore>).
~ The Wallace Memorial Window - William Wallace was probably born in Elderslie, not far from Paisley and may have been educated in the Abbey.
~ Plaque listing all the Houstons of Houston from the 12th century.
~ Plaque recalling that in the Abbey in 1491 the Abbot gave King James IV> Papal absolution for "Whatever responsibility he might have had for the death of his father, King James III."
~ Coat of arms of the Cathcart family who were long associated with the Abbey; Sir Alan Cathcart helped to bring back the heart of Robert the Bruce from Spain.
~Memorial to John Witherspoon>, minister of the Auld Kirk in Beith in Ayrshire who later helped to draft the American Declaration of Independence and was President of Princeton University from 1768 until his death in 1794.
~ Regimental Memorial to the 6th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. There is also a White Ensign, the flag of the Royal Navy - nearby Glasgow Airport used to be the Royal Naval Air Station, HMS Sanderling.
~ An organ which was built in 1872 and is regarded by the experts as one of the best of its kind in the world.
Note there is a Web based slide show of many more graphics of Paisley Abbey on this site at Paisley Abbey Slide Show
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