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After visiting Dryburgh Abbey in our previous post, our attention is now on Melrose Abbey. It is considered one of Scotland’s most beautiful ruins situated in the borderlands.

melrose stereoview

Stereo photo view of the abbey and the corresponding label on the back from our archive the faint yellow card measuring 31/4″x 63/4″ (81/4cms x 17cms) with an image measuring 7 x 61/4 cms. Made by McGlashon. Alexander McGlashon produced a total of 6 stereo views of the Abbey, known as number 95 though 100 according to Peter Stubb’s wonderful expert Scottish website. Visiting this website is highly recommended!                             

The Melrose monks, being Cistercians or white monks, were one of the new wave of reformed monastic orders, and were founded in 1098 AD at Cîteaux, near Dijon in Burgundy, by a group of Benedictine monks. They were observers of Saint Benedict’s Rule, and believed that those rules were being followed in too lax a manner. The Cistercians, who took their name from the Latin for Cîteaux – ‘Cistercium’ – opted to follow St Benedict’s Rule more strictly. They refused to accept feudal revenues and reintroduced manual labor for their monks. One of the famous Cistercian monks was St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who championed the growing cult of the Virgin and denounced more liberal monk’s views who undermined the mysteries of God. The church at Melrose was dedicated to the Virgin Mary on its completion in 1146.

The two photos above are the same image, unfortunately our scanner is not large enough to take a single pass showing all of the larger size photographs. I thought it important enough to show the letters in the bottom photo which reads 205 Melrose Abbey. The photograph is a large albumen print measuring 6″x81/4″ with a greyish tone. Pasted on board. Comparing the viewpoint of both the large photo here and the stereo card photo above one wonders if the photographer in both cases was the same?

The Abbey, was founded by King David I around 1136, and construction work began with monks from the Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. Little evidence of this Church now exists. From the beginning of the 14th century, Melrose Abbey was subjected to raids, many of the monks were slaughtered, and finally the church was burned to the ground.The final attack came in 1545 with the Earl of Hertford bombarded the site with cannons. The town of Melrose also suffered from many English invasions and the active Abbey ended with the Reformation in 1560. Following the last attack the Abbey was never properly restored, but some extensive restoration work did take place in 1918 when the abbey was gifted to the nation by the Duke of Buccleugh.

The elegant east window displays the very English Perpendicular trend, whereas the beautiful window in the south transept follows more of a free-style French influence.

This albumen print is even larger than the one above and shows the interior of the ruins rather well. the color is a deeper greyish brown and the image had to be re-sized so we loose something along the top. Faintly visible is the writing along the bottom which reads 336 GWW standing for George Washington Wilson who was from Aberdeen. This is the third photographer and also the largest image we have measuring 7 3/4″ x 11 1/4″ ( 19.12 cms x 29 cms)

What remains of the beautiful dusky-pink sandstone ruin is substantial and breath taking. It is in complete contrast to the plain, simple lines of the first designed Church. The monks excelled themselves when building and supervising this magnificent quality workmanship. Much of the rich stone decoration has survived the abundant attempts to destroy the Abbey, and there is an abundance of corbels and gargoyles. The above photographic image provides an excellent view of some of this outstanding stone work.

Today we find the site split by a modern road that runs across the length of the Lay Brothers’ Range. The Church, Cloister, and older foundations of the Cloistral buildings are on one side of the road and, on the other side, a large part of the Lay Brothers’ Range and the site of the Abbot’s Hall and the Knight Commander’s House can be seen. This 15th century converted residence houses now a museum, containing a collection of objects excavated during early 20th century excavations. One of those objects found in the Chapter House, was a lead casket containing a mummified heart and there is good reason to assume that this was indeed King Robert the Bruce’s Heart, legend has it, wanted his heart to be buried in the Abbey’s grounds.

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