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The Border Abbeys
Kelso Abbey


Kelso Abbey

Kelso Abbey Kelso Abbey Kelso Abbey

Tironensian
Founded 1126 by David I

DAVID I founded the first reformed-order abbey in Britain at Selkirk in 1113, but in 1126 the Tironensians (or Black Monks) who made up the house moved to Kelso, where they build one of the most remarkable and puzzling works of architecture in Scotland. Although a written description of the abbey survived from the 15th century, it is not clear how the complex looked. It was double-cruciform in the Romanesque style, having four transepts instead of the usual two, and two towers instead of one; and it was surely the most stunning building in the nation at its height. But its layout and design remain a topic of discussion.

King James II was crowned there in 1437, and so was his son, James III, in 1460. A bishop of St Andrews felt so closely affiliated to Kelso that he had his remains buried there instead of in his own cathedral.

After much hard use during the Wars of Independence, Kelso had to be abandoned for a time. Among other attacks the most serious were in 1522, 1545 and 1547. In the 1545 Rough Wooing campaign the Earl of Hertford massacred 112 men who defended the abbey, including 12 monks.

By the time of the Reformation there were only a few monks left, and they were allowed to remain in their home once they transferred to the new faith. By 1587 they were all dead; but the abbey was not abandoned because part of the church continued in use by the parish

Much of the post-Reformation work was removed by the time the Ministry of Works took the ruin into care in 1919, but the ravages of time and stone-robbing means very little remains of Kelso Abbey today. The small corner of church in existence can only hint at the former majesty of the complex.

This text is abbreviated from the articles that appear on ScotlandPast's CD-Rom digital guide "The Border Abbeys". The guide also features 360 degree panoramic images, photo galleries, video introductions, 3D interactive graphics and an at-a-glance history timeline. The CD, which runs on PC and Mac with most Internet browsers, is available for 8.99 from http://www.scotland-past.com 2003 ScotlandPast. All rights reserved.


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