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19 September 2014
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Dryburgh Abbey - Factsheet
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Dryburgh Abbey
  • ‘At the feast of St Laurence Richard II, King of England, sick at heart that the Scots and French were plundering his land so cruelly…assembled a large army and entered Scotland at the age of 19.
    He advanced at the midst of his arrogant host, destroying everything on all sides and saving nothing. He burnt to ashes with consuming flames churches devoted to God and monastic sanctuaries, namely Dryburgh, Melrose and Newbattle, and the noble royal town of Edinburgh.’
    Bower’s Scotichronicon on Richard II’s invasion of 1385.

  • Dryburgh abbey, four miles south-east of Melrose, belonged to the Premonstratensian Order (or White Canons). They were founded by St Norbert in 1119 at Prémontré, near Laon, in north-eastern France. Quickly approved by the Papacy, the order rapidly spread throughout Europe.

  • They operated a stricter and purer form of the rule of St Augustine, supplemented with ideas drawn from the Cistercians. It was a life of tremendous austerity, abstinence, fasting and mortification, all dedicated to the contemplation of God. This type of devotion is apparent in the fact that the abbey only had one fireplace to warm the monks throughout the long, Scottish winters.

  • In 1150 Hugo de Morville, one of the Normans who was granted vast estates across the south of Scotland by King David I, established the first community of Premonstratensians at Dryburgh. Bringing them from Alnwick in Northumbria, which in the reign of David I was effectively part of the Scottish kingdom.

  • Despite the rigours of monastic life, Dryburgh established an international intellectual reputation through Adam Scot, Abbot of Dryburgh, and his works on the nature of God and Biblical exegesis.

  • Like Melrose, Dryburgh was burnt to the ground by Edward II of England in 1322 after his army camped at there on their way home following a fruitless invasion of Scotland. Robert the Bruce picked up the tab for the damage, but the abbey was destroyed once again by Richard II as he swept through the Borders in punishment for Scots raids on the North of England. Dryburgh Abbey Chapterhouse

  • Much of Dryburgh has survived its frequent depredations. It has retained some of the best preserved outbuildings of any monastery in Scotland - such as its Chapterhouse (pictured right). Unfortunately the monastery's church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, lies in almost total ruin. Within its surviving aisle lies the tomb of the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and his family; nearby lies Earl Haig, the controversial commander of the British forces in the First World War.

  • Around Dryburgh was one of Walter Scott’s favourite walks. Nearby is a statue of William Wallace located at Scott’s Outlook, a scenic vantage point which looks out over the Tweed Valley and Old Melrose to the Eildon Hills. According to legend it was Scott’s ancestor, the wizard Michael Scott, who split the hill into three peaks.

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