Greyfriars Church and Convent, Elgin

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 21930 62750, map


Abbey Street / Greyfriar's Street

Also known as:

  • Sisters of Mercy


Greyfriars Sisters of Mercy Convent is a large complex of buildings located close to Elgin Cathedral near the centre of this historic town. There is a large chapel or church, which is the focus of the Convent, and an attached H-plan range of buildings abutting the south wall of the church.  

Greyfriars was founded here in 1479 on the site of a previous Franciscan convent. The Franciscan friars were introduced into Elgin by King Alexander II in the 13th century and moved to this site in the 15th century. Greyfriars was sold to the Sisters of Mercy in 1891. The ruined buildings of the Convent and church were restored between 1896 and 1908 by the Marquis of Bute and his son Lord Colum Crichton Stuart. The church and convent is still in use by the Sisters of Mercy and they run a school on the premises too. 

Description (exterior)

The church is a fairly large building, aligned east-west on the corner of Abbey Street and Grefriar's Street. It was mostly rebuilt at the end of the 19th century but is on the site of the original building and re-uses some of the original stonework. It is a rectangular building, constructed in mostly sandstone rubble, which is coursed and roughly-shaped. Ashlar stone is used on the corners (quoins) and for the window surrounds and tracery. The steeply-pitched roof is slated. 


The long north elevation of the church has four fairly large, recessed and chamfered pointed-arch windows. They have simple Y-tracery and small panes of leaded glass. Towards the east end is a single, tall buttress which is gabled at the top. Alongside are two small windows, a pointed-arch window at wallhead hight and a smaller, ogee-arched window low down, below. At the western end of the elevation is a small timber-framed porch, with an open round-arched gable facing north. 


The east and west gables each have a single, very large pointed-arch window with fine stone intersecting tracery and leaded, stained glass. A sill course extends across the gables. The south elevation is masked by the attached convent buildings, all of which were rebuilt at the same time as the church. They form a quadrangle with covered cloisters and are two storey in height, with largely vernacular-type rectangular windows and doorways.

Description (interior)

The interior of the church is largely unchanged from when re-built in the late 19th century. There is a wooden barrel-vaulted roof structure and the plastered walls have a tall wooden dado, which rises above window cill level. The nave area is fairly restrained, with plain walls and floor, and simple wooden chairs to the centre. A very fine wooden screen divides the nave from the choir and chancel beyong, with large double doors in the centre. The screen supports a large crucifix on top with flanking gilded angels.  the chancel area has plain plastered walls and the stone altar is raised on three shallow stone steps. There is a stained glass window above the altar of Christ the King leading saintly women.

People / Organisations:

John KinrossArchitect1896


  • Convent founded (1479)
  • Convent and church rebuilt (1896)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 511
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 30681A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ26SW 11
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 16604

Bibliographic References:

Scottish Medieval Churches: Architecture and FurnishingsR Fawcett2002
Medieval religious houses in Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man,I B Cowan and D E Easson1976p109-111
The history of the province of Moray: comprising the counties of Elgin and Nairn, the greater part of the County of Inverness, and a portion of the County of BanffLShaw1882Vol. 2, p26