NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the sedilia and piscina

taken 4 years ago, near to Paisley, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

Paisley Abbey: the sedilia and piscina
Paisley Abbey: the sedilia and piscina
This is the south-eastern corner of the choir, on the far right in NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the choir. For more on the choir as a whole, see NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the choir.

As noted there, the choir was restored in the twentieth century; it had previously been unroofed, and it was walled off from the rest of the abbey. However, the stone structure at the centre of the present photograph is part of the older fabric of the building. The four recesses are sedilia (Latin: 'seats'): these were seats in the south wall, near the altar, for the clergy. More commonly, there would be three such seats rather than four. Howell (in the work cited in the end-note) observes that there are grooves in the leftmost recess, and suggests that it may have held shelves.

Smaller nooks to the left, behind the wooden seat, were for the piscina (a stone bowl for washing communion vessels).

One end of the Holy Table can be seen at the far left of the picture.
Paisley Abbey
The abbey's website – LinkExternal link – provides a summary of its history, and other information.

It is thought that an early religious community was established at Paisley by St Mirin. In the twelfth century, Walter FitzAlan, High Steward of Scotland, had a priory established on his lands in Paisley, to be founded by monks of the Cluniac order; one of Walter's charters confirms certain lands "to God and Saint Mary, and the church of St James, and St Mirin, and St Myldburge de Passelet [Paisley], and to the priors and monks serving God there according to the order of Clugny".

In its design, the original priory was modelled on the Abbey of Cérise in France. The religious establishment at Paisley was elevated to the status of an abbey in 1245, after lengthy negotiations.

The abbey suffered grievous damage during the Wars of Independence: according to an annal entry (here translated from the original Latin), "in this year, 1307, the English burnt the Monastery of Paisley"; nothing remained but blackened walls. Some repair work was started in 1317, but little progress was made for several decades: however, by 1389-90, we have notice of glass being purchased for the abbey's windows, showing that repairs were then well under way.

A great deal of rebuilding was carried out during the time of Abbot Thomas Tervas (mid-fifteenth century), and, a little later, by Abbot George Shaw. The buildings appear to have been damaged by fire towards the end of the same century. It also seems that, at some point in the abbey's history, its central tower collapsed, damaging adjacent structures.

At the time of the Reformation (1560), the damage done to the abbey was limited, perhaps partly because the building was already in poor condition.

Subsequent developments will not be described here in detail, but it is worth noting several restorations of the abbey that were carried out in recent centuries: (1) 1788-89, under the supervision of Dr Robert Boog, minister of the First Charge at the Abbey (Boog was also responsible for piecing together what is now called the Tomb of Marjorie Bruce); (2) 1859-62, under ministers Andrew Wilson and J Cameron Lees; (3) 1898-1907, under the ministers Thomas Gentles and J B Dalgety; and (4) 1912-28 (but interrupted in 1918 by the War), under A M Maclean and W Fulton. See Howell, cited below, for details.

In the 1990s, the Great Drain below the abbey was rediscovered (see Malden, cited below); it has subsequently yielded many interesting artefacts, some of which are now displayed in the Sacristy Museum, within the abbey.

Selected references:

▪ "Historical Description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley", Charles Mackie (1835).
▪ "The Abbey of Paisley", J Cameron Lees (1878).
▪ "Paisley Abbey: Its History, Architecture, & Art", Rev A R Howell (1929).
▪ "The Monastery and Abbey of Paisley" (various contributors), edited by John Malden (2000).
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NS4863, 883 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Monday, 26 August, 2013   (more nearby)
Submitted
Monday, 30 September, 2013
Geographical Context
Religious sites 
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Indoor 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4859 6394 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:50.6901N 4:25.1869W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4859 6395
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South-southeast (about 157 degrees)
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