Holyrood Abbey

King David I founded Holyrood Abbey in 1128 which is now in ruins and the walls that are left of the abbey lie Adjacent to the Holyrood Palace, the abbey has been in ruins since the 18th Century, scheduled daily maintenance takes place to keep the abbey protected.

The name Holyrood comes from the name of the cross the Jesus Christ was Crucified on which is Rood, so the name translates to Holy Cross Abbey.


When King David I was out hunting on the Feast of the Cross, he was thrown from his horse and attacked by a Hart, a cross appeared between the Hart and King David I as a reflection from the cross he was wearing, which startled the Hart and Saved King David I life. King David I then founded the Holyrood Abbey as an act of thanksgiving in 1128.

St. Margaret brought a fragment of the true cross from the Waltham Abbey to Holyrood Abbey, and was known as Black Rood of Scotland, this fragment was held in a Golden Reliquary. The fragment was then taken by the English at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, the fragment was finally placed in Durham Cathedral where it disappeared in the reformation.

  • The Augustinian Canons Regular from Merton Priory served in the Holyrood Abbey.
  • The papal legate Vivian held Council in the Abbey in 1177.
  • The Nobles and Prelates of Scotland in 1189 met here to discuss about the raising a ransom for William the Lion.

In 1195 and 1230 went through some large reconstruction, after the reconstruction the building then consisted of:

  • Six-bay aisled choir.
  • Three-bay transepts with a central tower above.
  • Eight-bay aisled nave with twin towers at its west front.

There is evidence of the stonemason’s construction quality on the S aisle vaults, these are set on a 4.4m.

The Scottish Parliament met in the Abbey many times in:

  • 1256
  • 1285
  • 1327
  • 1366
  • 1384
  • 1389
  • 1410

Robert the Bruce used Holyrood Abbey for parliament in 1326 and there is evidence that supports that Holyrood was being used as a residence in 1329. Robert I signed the Treaty of Edinburgh and Northampton in 1328 in the King’s Chamber in Holyrood, bringing an end to the Frist War of Independence.

There was a guest house in the west of the Abbey cloister that was used by visiting King’s, that had come to see the Edinburgh Castle.

James II and his twin brother Alexander, Duke of Rothesay where born in Holyrood in 1430. James was also crowned in Holyrood in 1437 and building works took place not long after for his wedding in 1449. James IV built the Holyrood Palace between 1498 and 1501 next to the Holyrood Abbey Cloister.


There was some royal Coronations that took place in Holyrood like:

  • James II in 1437.
  • Margaret Tudor in 1504.
  • Mary of Guise in 1540.
  • Anne of Denmark in 1590.
  • Charles I in 1633.


A few Royal wedding took place in Holyrood Abbey as well such as:

  • James II and Mary Guelders in 1449.
  • James III and Mary of Denmark in 1469.
  • James IV and Margaret Tudor in 1503.


Many Royal Funerals and Interments took place in Holyrood Abbey at the Royal Vaults these include:

  • King David II in 1371.
  • King James II in 1460.
  • Arthur, Duke of Rothesay in 1510.
  • Madeleine of Valois in 1537.
  • James, Duke of Rothesay in 1541.
  • Arthur, Duke of Albany in 1541.
  • King James V in 1542.
  • Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1567.
  • Margaret (James IV second daughter) in 1600
  • Mary of Guelders in 1463.

If you would like to know more about the Holyrood Abbey try the Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyrood_Abbey or if you would like to try one of our tours that will take you to Holyrood Abbey and other sites in Edinburgh come to our tours page https://eoscs.co.uk/car-tours-of-scotland/

To find out more about the attractions and places to see we have created a list to help you decide on some the best that Edinburgh has to offer Edinburgh Tourist Attractions.

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