History Files


Medieval Britain

Rediscovered: Lost Abbey where Bruce was Crowned

by Frank Urquhart, The Scotsman, 20 July 2007

One of Scotland's most important "lost" historic sites - the ancient abbey where Robert the Bruce is believed to have been crowned on the Stone of Destiny - has been rediscovered.

Archaeologists using sophisticated magnetic imaging technology have traced the exact location of Scone Abbey, the ancient seat of ecclesiastical and royal power where Scottish kings were inaugurated for four centuries. The find could eventually pave the way for excavations to begin to reveal the remains.

The major archaeological investigation in the grounds of Scone Palace is led by Oliver O'Grady, of the Department of Archaeology at Glasgow University, and Peter Yeoman, a prominent expert on medieval Scotland. Mr O'Grady said yesterday that the discovery of the outline of the "lost" abbey had exceeded all the expectations of his team.

It is the first time there has been any trace of the abbey, founded in 1114 by Alexander I, since it was sacked and burned by an angry mob in 1559 at the height of the Reformation.

"We have had some startling results," he said. "For the first time we can say this is the location of the great main abbey church of Scone. It was the location of many inaugurations of Scottish kings and is believed to have been where the Stone of Destiny was housed in the main altar at the eastern end of the abbey. It is certainly thought to be the location where Robert the Bruce was inaugurated.

"The importance of Scone - where kings were made and parliaments met - is only matched by how little we know about the reality of the place."

An emerging picture

The dramatic first images have been captured on the team's computer screens. They believe the abbey complex could be up to 100 metres in length - far larger than was previously thought.

Mr O'Grady added: "We have been really surprised by the high quality of the survey results so far.

For the first time in the modern age we can actually begin to get an emerging picture of the scale of the church here. We are amazed by what we've found."

Mr O'Grady said the team of archaeologists was in "positive" discussions with the palace - home of the Earl and Countess of Mansfield - about continuing their work and expanding the geophysics survey. There were, he said "multiple possibilities" including future excavations.

Suzanne Urquhart, the chief executive of Mansfield Estates at Scone Palace, said: "To see the plan of what was a beautiful Gothic church emerge after being lost for 400 years is very exciting. We are talking to the archaeologists about how the project might develop."



Images and text copyright The Scotsman. Reproduced with permission.