Culross Abbey

National Grid Reference (NGR): NS 98890 86250, map


Address

Culross Abbey
Kirk Street
Culross
Fife
KY12 8JB
Scotland

Introduction

This abbey is situated on a hillside overlooking the town of Culross. The Cistercian Abbey was founded by Malcolm the 7th Earl of Fife in 1215 for the monks of Kinloss, Moray. Although the church was built in the thirteenth century the conventual buildings were not built until the early fourteenth century. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the membership of the monastery had been reduced to choir monks, there being no longer any lay brothers,  leaving the nave redundant. Therefore, in roughly 1500 the nave was removed and the tower was added.  After the Reformation the choir was used as a parish church.   Its status was formally established as  such by Act of Parliament in 1633.

In its current state the site consists of ruinous sections of the east, south and west ranges of the cloister, the  manse (built on the site of the northern part of the west range) and Culross (Abbey) Parish Church (site 4618).    The church and manse are A-listed and the remains of the abbey buildings are protected as a Scheduled Monument.


Description

The chapter house was at the north end of the east range of the cloister. It was built in the fourteenth century and underwent reconstruction in late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The only visible remains of this building are at the north end of the west wall of the east cloister range and consist of a wall fragment containing a window and arched door with moulded surrounds.

The cloister lies to the south of the abbey church on ground which slopes downwards towards the south.   The ground was terraced so that the cloister garth (the courtyard surrounded by the cloister) would be on the same level as the church.   The cloister ranges had undercrofts so that the upper floors were on the same level as the church and courtyard.   The northern part of the west cloister range was replaced by the manse which was built in 1637 to serve the newly established Parish Church.

The monks’ dorter was in the east range of the cloister.  This range is in a ruinous condition with only the lower floors of the west and north walls still standing to any height.   A blind arcade is visible on the north wall.   Only the lower sections of the east wall remain intact, and the south wall is no longer standing..   The interior features a line of octagonal piers at its centre, running from north to south.

The monks’ refectory was on the south range of the cloister.   Only the north wall of its undercroft survives.   The corbels and stonework show that this undercroft would have been vaulted.    A warming house may have existed in part of the undercroft.    The refectory was probably on the upper floor, of which no remains survive.

The lay brothers’ refectory was on the ground floor of  the southern end of the west cloister;   the dormitory was on the upper floor.   The whole structure is ruinous, and open on its southern side.    The lower floor, which possibly housed the kitchen , has a tunnel vaulted ceiling.    There are two  square headed doors in this room, one in each of the west and north walls.    On the upper floor there is a square headed door in the north wall and a blocked round arched door in the east wall.    This storey has a rib vaulted ceiling.

After the nave of the abbey church was demolished in c.1500 the large square tower was built to finish off the western end of the choir.    As the tower has been incorporated into the fabric of the Culross (Abbey) Parish Church a detailed description will be found in site 4618. 


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Saint MaryDedicatee1217
MalcolmFounder1217
Historic ScotlandCuratorNOW
CisterciansDenomination1217-1560
Saint SerfDedicatee1217Saint's Day: 1st July.
Church of ScotlandDenomination1633-NOWDenomination of Culross Abbey Parish Church.

Events:

  • Abbey: Founded (1217)
  • Building expansions (1300 (c.))
    Building of the cloister, chapter house, gatehouse, dorter, refectory, and conventual buildings.
  • Abbey: Restoration (1400 to 1500)
    The buildings of the abbey were reconstructed.
  • Abbey: Repair (1498 to 1513)
    Side walls strengthened by Abbot Andrew Masoun, tower completed with newel stair and new entrance from the west.
  • Tower: Build/Construction (1500)
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1500)
    The nave of the church became redundant and was demolished.
  • Church: Addition (1500)
    A tower built was built at the northern end of the choir, after the demolition of the nave. The northern aisle was also added to choir at this time.
  • Transept: Build/construction (1500 (c.) uncertified)
    Possible re-building. Part of the works carried out by Abbot Andrew Masoun.
  • Abbey: Abandonment (1560)
    The abbey was abandoned at the Reformation.
  • Abbey: Alteration/conversion (1560)
    After the Reformation the choir of the abbey church was taken over as the parish church (see parish church section) and this status was officially established by an Act of Parliament in 1633.
  • Abbey: Closure (1589)
    Secularised.
  • Refectory: Destruction/demolition (1637 (c.))
    The northern section of the western cloister range was demolished and replaced by the manse which was built to serve the newly established parish church.
  • Transept: Build/construction (1642)
    Rebuilt by the Bruce Family; at the same time the Bruce Vault was constructed.
  • Church: Addition (1642)
    Addition of Bruce Aisle.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1642)
    North transept altered by the Bruce Family at the same time the Bruce Aisle was added.
  • House: Addition (1752 uncertified)
    Addition of third floor.
  • Burial enclosure: Build/construction (1800)
  • Watchhouse: Build/construction (1800 uncertified)
    Was probably built in the early nineteenth century.
  • Church: Repair (1823 to 1824)
    Extensive repairs and alterations to the church.
  • Tower: Addition (1823)
    Crenellated parapet.
  • House: Addition (1824 to 1825)
    Addition of west wing and offices.
  • Watchhouse: Abandonment (1832)
    Likely to have gone out of use after the Anatomy Act of 1832, after which there would have been a decrease in grave robbing and therefore less need for a watch house.
  • Church: Repair (1869)
    Repairs to roof and session house.
  • Church: Repair (1878)
    Repairs to roof and vaulting.
  • Transept: Restoration (1905)
  • Transept: Build/construction (1905)
    Rebuilt
  • Church: Restoration (1905 to 1906)
    Church restored by R. Rowand Anderson - included reopening of medieval windows and insertion of new tracery, rebuilding of south transept and replacement of piended roof to east end with a gable.
  • Aisle: Build/construction (1905)
    East wall rebuilt.
  • Transept: Addition (1906)
    Addition of tracery and 6-light window depicting Judas, Gethsemane, asleep in the garden, Annunciation, Virgin and child, and Mine Eyes have seen the Glory by Stephen Adams Studio (designed by Wright).
  • Organ: Installed (1906)
    Organ by Norman and Beard.
  • Church: Addition (1906)
    Addition of six-light window and tracery in the south transept. Window depicting Judas, Gethsemane, asleep in the garden, Annunciation, Virgin and Child, Mine Eyes have seen the Glory. Signed from studios of Stephen Adams FSA, designed by Wright.
  • Graveyard: Addition (1914)
    New burial ground at the eastern end of the church.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1923)
    Alterations to seventeenth century pulpit.
  • Church: Addition (1963)
    Two-light Resurrection window in memory of \"a well loved Minister of this Church\" Rev. James Gow. Signed by artist S. McClelland.
  • Church: Addition (1970s)
    Illustrated applique cross in chapel by D. Hogg
  • Church: Addition (1998)
    Window for Sandy Dunn, 1965-1996 by Emma Butler-Cole Aiken. Text: \"This window is about giving and serving. It is about right wrongs past, present and future.\"

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M032357
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M034672
www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk - Online databaseReference: Culross Abbeyhttp://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/culross/culrossabbey/index.html
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M000327
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 48040
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 48041
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 95102
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 99588
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 48040Culross Abbey
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 23960
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M000327Culross Abbey Parish Church
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 23960Culross Abbey Parish Church
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-025-578-CImage: Edwina Proudfoot
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4618Culross Abbey Parish Church
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4686West lodge
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1642

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
The Kingdom of FifePride, G.1990pp. 25-26.
Ecclesiastical Architecture of ScotlandMacgibbon & Ross, D;T1896STAHS, and available most libraries pp. 231-243
Revision of Hay's Post-ref Churches (49)Green; Walker, S;DM1980Restenneth
Medieval Religious Houses of ScotlandCowan & Easson, I.B;D.E1976p. 73.
1000 Churches to Visit in Scotland, Year 2006/2007 editionScotland\'s Churches Scheme2006Illustrations Copyright: John R Hume,2005.
Maps Copyright: Jim Lewis, 2005. p. 218.
The Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches of ScotlandScotland\'s Churches Scheme1995p. 12.
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 146 -151.
http://www.culrossandtorryburnchurch.org.uk
Discovery & Excavation, Scotland 2010.Mary Markus2010Inventory of carved stones conducted. page 76