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Arbroath Abbey

Picture: Steve Perks
The Scribe's Tale
Arbroath Abbey was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion, King of Scots, in honour of Thomas a-Beckett Archbishop of Canterbury.

A brief history
An intriguing account involving the whereabouts of the Stone of Destiny put Arbroath and its Abbey on the map early in 1951.

The stone was stolen from Westminster Abbey, London, in December 1950 and returned to Scotland. Following a nation-wide search for the stone it was traced to Arbroath Abbey and amidst a blaze of publicity on 11 April 1951 was returned to Westminster Abbey. The stone of destiny was the stone on which all Scottish kings were crowned at Scone Palace in Perthshire and had been reputedly stolen from Scone by the English and taken to Westminster Abbey in medieval times.
Picture: TheShoppie.com
Entrance to the Abbey

Much earlier, on 6th April 1320 the Declaration of Scottish Independence was signed at Arbroath Abbey. A pageant re-enacting the signing was held within the ruins of the Abbey in 1947 and was held at two year intervals well into the 60's. In the 80's the magnificent pageant was revived on two occasions and has been held occasionally since then, most recently in 2005.

In the summer of 2001 a new visitors' centre was opened to the public beside the Abbey's west front. This red sandstone-clad building, with its distinctive 'wave-shaped' organic roof, planted with sedum, houses displays on the history of the Abbey and some of the best surviving stonework and other relics.
Picture: Derek Robertson
Declaration of Arbroath facsimile
The upper storey features a scale model of the Abbey complex, a computer-generated 'fly-through' reconstruction of the church as it was when complete, and a viewing gallery with excellent views of the ruins. The centre won the 2002 Angus Design Award. An archaeological investigation of the site of the visitors' centre before building started revealed the foundations of the medieval precinct wall, with a gateway, and stonework discarded during manufacture, showing that the area was the site of the masons' yard while the Abbey was being built.

References and further reading:

Wikipedia, Historic Scotland, Angus Council.

Text last reviewed: January 2009

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