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Dunblane Cathedral and precinct, buried remains

A Scheduled Monument in Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, Stirling

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Latitude: 56.1895 / 56°11'22"N

Longitude: -3.9648 / 3°57'53"W

OS Eastings: 278160

OS Northings: 701388

OS Grid: NN781013

Mapcode National: GBR 1B.G37T

Mapcode Global: WH4NT.2P7F

Entry Name: Dunblane Cathedral and precinct, buried remains

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1981

Last Amended: 22 May 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90109

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard

Location: Dunblane and Lecropt

County: Stirling

Electoral Ward: Dunblane and Bridge of Allan

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument comprises the buried archaeological remains associated with Dunblane Cathedral and its precinct, located beneath the 12th and 13th century cathedral and its graveyard. The monument is located in the Stirlingshire town of Dunblane, on the east bank of the Allan Water at about 50m above sea level.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan and includes the remains described above, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to but does not include the boundary walls. It includes the graveyard and the ground beneath the church but specifically excludes all above-ground parts of the present church building, all active burial lairs and the above ground elements of all burial monuments, walls and fences. In addition, to allow for their maintenance, the scheduling excludes the top 30cm of existing paths and the above ground elements of all modern signage, floodlights, fixtures and fittings.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The buried archaeological remains associated with Dunblane Cathedral and precinct consists of the remains of early Christian and medieval activity connected with the use of the site as an ecclesiastical centre, associated buildings and burials.

Dunblane is believed to have been a religious centre by the 9th century and the present cathedral is known to have been built on the site of an earlier church. Ground Penetrating Radar survey within the church has detected anomalies below the north and south aisles of the cathedral suggestive of areas of debris or the remains of foundations, while fragments of human bone and glazed floor tile were recovered during a watching brief in the nave. Two sculptured stones of 9th or 10th century date were found in 1871 under the Lady Chapel during restoration works.

The cathedral had no cloister, but instead had a precinct, or chanonry, where the dignitaries and canons had their residences. A fragment of a vaulted room uncovered in the southwest section of the burial ground may represent part of the 13th century bishop's palace, most of which lies to the south (scheduled monument number 7707; Canmore ID 24681), or part of an earlier building. An adjacent earthwork platform may be connected with this structure. A number of stone long cists have been recovered from the burial ground, while a scatter of demolition rubble found in the northeast part of the graveyard has been identified as the remains of buildings formerly fronting onto Kirk Street. Together this indicates high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including structural remains, human burials, artefacts and environmental remains beneath the present cathedral and within the burial ground.

The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to add to our knowledge of the form and nature of the early Christian activity at Dunblane, the 12th century church and buildings associated with the cathedral within the precinct, the nature and date of the bishop's palace and any earlier phases. They can enhance our understanding of ecclesiastical structure, land-use and environment during the early Christian and medieval periods. There are likely to be burials spanning a considerable time depth beneath Dunblane cathedral and within the burial ground, with potential to enhance our knowledge of status and burial practice at medieval ecclesiastical sites.

Two cross slabs found at Dunblane and dating to the 9th or 10th century indicate an early Christian presence at the site. There has probably been a religious centre at Dunblane from at least the 9th century. The earliest reference to a bishop at Dunblane was in 1155, following the return of the bishopric and the building of the first cathedral. It is likely that the diocese was already well established at this time.

The cathedral still stood unroofed in 1237, when Bishop Clement secured papal approval to replace it with a new cathedral. It is thought he dismantled the unfinished church apart from the tower, which was incorporated into the new building. The new church was planned at a slightly different alignment due to the presence of boggy ground to the northeast. The bishop's palace, probably built for Bishop Clement in the 13th century, lay to the southwest of the cathedral. Its extent is unclear, but excavations indicate earlier phases may extend into the present burial ground. After the reformation the chancel of the cathedral continued in use, though the nave fell into disrepair with the roof collapsing in 1622. The chancel was restored in 1816 and the nave between 1889 and 1893.

The monument, therefore, has a long sequence of development and offers high potential to study changes in belief and religious practice over an extended time period. Study of the form and construction of the buried remains has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and development sequence, and to provide information about the design, construction and development of early Christian and medieval ecclesiastical sites.

Contextual Characteristics

Dunblane was the seat of the bishops of Strathearn. It was one of the power-centres of the medieval Scottish church and was staffed by regular Canons or priests. It was one of thirteen cathedrals established during the medieval period in Scotland, including Glasgow Cathedral (scheduled monument number 90150; listed building number 32654), Dunkeld Cathedral (scheduled monument number 90119; Canmore ID 27156) and Brechin Cathedral (listed building number 22439; Canmore ID 35055).

Dunblane Cathedral is known for the long history of activity at the site and juxtaposition of the 12th century tower and 13th century fabric of the building. The remains beneath and surrounding the cathedral are of particular significance because of their association with the cathedral, its precinct and earlier phases of use. They have an important role in informing us about the nature of early Christian activity, as well as the layout, use and functioning of a major medieval ecclesiastical site. The remains have the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of early Christian and medieval ecclesiastical foundations.

Associative Characteristics

The name Dunblane may come from the use of the site by monks of Kingarth in the 8th or early 9th centuries AD. They may have left the Isle of Bute to escape Viking raids, carrying St Blane's relics with them. The cathedral was to develop into a focus for the cult St Blane.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it can make a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval ecclesiastical foundations, architecture and religious practices. The monument is a good example of an ecclesiastical site with an extended development sequence and high potential for the survival of survival of significant buried deposits, including architectural remains and burials. It can help us understand much about ecclesiastical architecture and the role of the church in medieval society. The monument has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of changing religious practice and the development of places of worship over an extended time period. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the origins and development of places of worship in Scotland and the role of the church in wider medieval life. It would significantly diminish our ability to understand the form, character, development and architecture of medieval cathedral churches in eastern Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 24672 (accessed on 20/02/2018).

Dennison, E. P. and Coleman, R. (1997) Historic Dunblane: the archaeological implications of development, The Scottish burgh survey series. Edinburgh.

Hall, D. W. (2000) The bishop's palace, Dunblane: excavation and survey. The Scottish Archaeological Journal, vol 22(1). pp 69-81.

Heard, H. (2004) Geophysical survey report. Dunblane Cathedral service investigation. Stratascan.

Historic Environment Scotland (2011) Dunblane Cathedral. Statement of Significance.

MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T. (1896-7) The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century', Vol. 2. Edinburgh. pp. 86-112.

Main, L. (1999) Dunblane Cathedral (Dunblane & Lecropt parish), watching brief, Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. p. 86.

RCAHMS. (1979) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 7. Edinburgh. p. 11.

Stevenson, J B. (1985) Exploring Scotland's heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region, Exploring Scotland's heritage series. Edinburgh. pp. 88-9.

Sharman, P. (2000) Dunblane Cathedral, Stirling (Dunblane & Lecropt parish), watching brief, Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. p. 89.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Dunblane Cathedral
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Related Designations

Dunblane, Bishop's PalaceSM7707
Designation TypeScheduled MonumentStatusDesignated

Cathedral Square, Dunblane Cathedral (Cathedral Church of St Blaan and St Laurence including churchyard, boundary wall and Riccarton's stile) excluding scheduled monument SM90109, DunblaneLB26361
Designation TypeListed Building (A)StatusDesignated


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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