NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: tomb of Marjory Bruce

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

Paisley Abbey: tomb of Marjory Bruce
Paisley Abbey: tomb of Marjory Bruce
The tomb is located beside the northern wall of the choir; for context, see NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the choir, where it is visible on the right. For a closer look, see NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: tomb of Marjory Bruce.

The effigy has long been associated with the name of Marjory Bruce (daughter of King Robert the Bruce), sometimes nicknamed "Queen Bleary" (see NS4865 : The Marjory Bruce Cairn for much more on that), and it may well be a representation of her (however, for another opinion, namely, that it may be the effigy of a donor, or of the wife of a donor, see Malden, in the work cited in the end-note).

In any case, the tomb, in its present form, is a composite structure; it was assembled by Robert Boog, minister of the First Charge of Paisley Abbey, using pieces that had disparate origins. For example, the base may have been part of a pulpitum (a stone screen dividing the choir from the nave). In addition, the tomb, as originally constituted by Boog, and as shown in some old photographs, featured a canopy over the effigy's head. That canopy may originally have been associated with another statue, perhaps one of those that once stood alongside Abbot George Shaw's "Great Wall", which was built in the late fifteenth century. In recent times, the canopy has been removed from the effigy, but, at the time of writing, it is one of the items that are on display in the Sacristy Museum (whose entrance is on the opposite wall).

Incidentally, Robert Boog's own account of the monument, with useful comments on its previous locations, can be found on pages 456-461 of Volume 2 (1822) of the journal Archaeologia Scotica (now defunct, it was one of the journals of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland).
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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Date Taken
Monday, 26 August, 2013   (more nearby)
Monday, 30 September, 2013
Geographical Context
Religious sites  Burial ground, Crematorium 
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Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4858 6395 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:50.6953N 4:25.1968W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4858 6395
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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