St Mary on the Rock, St Andrews

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 51560 16660, map


St. Andrews
KY16 9RG

Also known as:

  • St Mary's Church
  • Kirkheugh
  • Church of the Blessed Mary of the Rock
  • St Mary Kirkheugh


St Mary on the Rock was an early medieval church, dating to the 12th century. It appears to have been built on the site of an earlier 9th century Culdee Church. Before 1290 St Mary on the Rock had become a collegiate church and a royal chapel. The church was built on a headland that overlooks St Andrews bay and the harbour. St Andrews Cathedral was built close by on a different alignment. St Mary on the Rock was demolished in 1559 and today only the foundations which were uncovered in 1860 can be seen. Further excavations took place in the 1970s. A number of carved stones were found around the church site and are now on display in the cathedral museum. A large burial ground is known to exist around the church. In the mid 17th century a gun emplacement was built partially on the site, to protect the harbour and town from a possible attack from the sea.

St Mary on the Rock was built of sandstone. A choir and transepts were added at the east end in the 13th century, probably when the church became collegiate. These new additions were built on a slightly different alignment to the original 12th century nave. There may also have been a low tower.  

Description (exterior)

Description (interior)

People / Organisations:

Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenomination12-1559


  • Church: Build/construction (1100 uncertified)
  • Church: Addition (1200)
    Addition of choir and transepts.
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1559)
    The church was demolished on the orders of the Earl of Argyll.
  • Church: Excavation (1860)
    Foundations of church uncovered in excavation.
  • Church: Excavation (1970)
  • Church: Founded (B1290)
    Re-founded as a collegiate church.

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 34358
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 40595
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1471
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-108-810-CImage and research: Abby Hunt.

Bibliographic References:

Historic St Andrews and its UniversityRead, J.1939Page: 8
St Andrews Cathedral: official guide.Historic Scotland1999Text: Richard Fawcett. Page: 26.