Almost 12 months ago to the day we were in Melrose in the Borders of Scotland. Just like the days in Cork at this time of the year, the weather was somewhat unpredictable, with bright sunshine being reflected in the freshly created puddles that the rain clouds had left behind minutes earlier.
Melrose is one of the Abbey towns on the banks of the River Tweed which winds its way through the Borders, sometimes acting as the border itself. Other than the Abbey, I would have associated the town with rugby and a school that has produced its fair share of rugby internationals, including the mighty John Jeffrey. The school is named St Mary’s after the Abbey and the entrance to Melrose Rugby Football Club stands just along from the Abbey entrance.
The Abbey is said to be the first Cistercian Abbey in Scotland, having been built in the 12th century. Now one of the problems of building such a fine building in the Borders area is that raids and battles were an obvious hazard. So the Abbey has seen itself burnt to the ground, rebuilt, destroyed and what is now left is a shell.
One of the rebuilds was ordered by Robert the Bruce and it is recorded that while his body lays in Dunfermline Abbey his heart was buried in St Mary’s Abbey, Melrose.
In 1996, an archaeological excavation on the site unearthed a conical lead container and an engraved copper plaque that read “The enclosed leaden casket containing a heart was found beneath Chapter House floor, March 1921, by His Majesty’s Office of Works.” The casket was investigated and contained a still recognisable human heart in a thick black liquor. As there are no records of anyone else’s heart being buried at Melrose it was presumed to be that of Robert the Bruce.
The Abbey may be a ruin, but whether that adds or detracts from the splendour is really down to the individual. There is much fine stone work to be admired and the scale for that time is truly impressive. I am sure the images cannot reflect the majesty of the place, but here is my attempt to show you around a bit:
For those wishing to climb the stairs to roof level, one can also look to spot the Bagpipe-playing pig amongst the various gargoyles.
Behind the Abbey is a solid building in the same hues as the Abbey itself, but here the building is intact. Well it is pretty modern having been built in the 16th century. Restoration took place in the 1940’s in order that it may serve as a museum to display the large amount of artefacts found at the site and surroundings.
To explore this rich site is to travel back in time and be amazed at what our forefather’s were able to do centuries ago.
I hope you have enjoyed this virtual trip in these Covid-19 times. Hopefully we will all be able to travel freely in the not too distant future and we can go in search of treasures once more. If you do find yourself in Melrose, you have to go to the “Apples for Jam” and support this lovely cafe.
Look after yourselves.
Meticulous Mick ☘️