Kelso Abbey | Scottish Borders
The Abbey Church is considered one of the most spectacular examples of Romanesque architecture in Scotland.
Kelso Abbey is one of the four Border Abbeys, but the least known. Why is this? It could be because of the famous names associated with the others: Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried at Melrose Abbey, Sir Walter Scott is buried at Dryburgh Abbey, and Mary Queen of Scots is associated with Jedburgh Abbey.
But Kelso Abbey has its own wonders. It was founded by a community of Tironensian monks in the 1100s and was once one of Scotland’s largest and wealthiest religious houses.
Back then- it was a big deal! So much so that it was the chosen burial place for Prince Henry of Scotland [1114–1152] as well as several of the Dukes of Roxburghe.
In 1460, King James III was crowned at Kelso Abbey, after the death of his father James II at the siege of Roxburgh.
The Tironensians monks weren’t very popular in Scotland, however, they were held in high regard by David I due to their master craftsmanship. David I loved architecture and was responsible for founding more than a dozen abbeys in Scotland during his reign in the 11th century.
Because Kelso Abbey is located so close to the Scottish/English border, it suffered from various raids and attacks, particularly during the Wars of Independence in 1296.
By 1545 Kelso Abbey had been so badly damaged the only salvageable part of the abbey was the church. It remained in use as the parish church until a new one was built nearby in the 1700s.
The Abbey Church is considered one of the most spectacular examples of Romanesque architecture in Scotland. Today you can wander around what remains of it and only imagine what it would have looked like almost 1000 years ago.