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Culross Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in West Fife and Coastal Villages, Fife

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Latitude: 56.0581 / 56°3'29"N

Longitude: -3.6255 / 3°37'31"W

OS Eastings: 298873

OS Northings: 686220

OS Grid: NS988862

Mapcode National: GBR 1R.Q7GZ

Mapcode Global: WH5QP.8ZTN

Entry Name: Culross Abbey

Scheduled Date: 13 December 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13334

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: abbey

Location: Culross

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: West Fife and Coastal Villages

Traditional County: Fife


The monument is the remains of Culross Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1217 by Malcolm, Earl of Fife. It is visible as upstanding masonry structures comprising the S wall of church nave and the remains of the W, E and S cloister ranges arranged around the cloister garth. The abbey church is situated on a steep slope at about 45 OD, overlooking the village of Culross and the Firth of Forth. The monument was originally scheduled in 1921, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The 13th-century abbey church was mostly abandoned by the early 16th century and all that remains is the S wall of the western part of the nave (although the eastern parts of the church were subsequently remodelled to form the present parish church). The wall is of sandstone ashlar and displays the remains of wall shafts, an aumbry and part of a jamb of a window. The remains of the cloister buildings are arranged around the cloister garth, which measures about 32m E-W by 30m transversely. Due to the steeply sloping ground, the cloister buildings were constructed on terraces with tall undercrofts. The W range is the most complete, although its N section is now occupied by the abbey manse. Surviving at ground level, to the S of the manse, is a quadripartite passage through the cloister range and a refectory comprising three quadripartite vaulted bays. The steps to the lay brothers' dormitory, which would have been located above the refectory, are still visible in W elevation of the W range. Underneath the S bay of the refectory is a tunnel-vaulted room, possibly a kitchen, with a latrine in its W wall. The most visible remains of the E range are an undercroft showing blind arcading on the N wall and a line of octagonal piers at its centre, running from N to S. At ground level, a section of walling containing a window and arched door is all that remains of the chapterhouse. Of the S range, only the N wall of the undercroft remains. Corbels and stonework on the wall suggest that this undercroft would have been vaulted.

The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the abbey's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of the wire fence and stone wall that bound the E extent of the scheduled area; the above-ground elements of the S boundary wall; the above-ground elements of a wooden shed and of all modern fixtures and fittings; and the top 300mm of all modern paths and gravelled areas to allow for their maintenance. On the N side the scheduled area extends up to, but does not include, the wall of the graveyard. The scheduling entirely excludes the occupied manse, the cafe and the present parish church.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an upstanding medieval abbey that can add to our understanding of medieval monastic foundations, devotion, patronage and economy. The monument survives in good condition and the lay brothers' accommodation is amongst the best preserved of the Cistercian monasteries in Scotland. It represents an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscapes. In addition to the upstanding structure, which can inform us about the development of Cistercian abbeys in Scotland, there is high potential for the presence of buried archaeological remains that can provide information about medieval monastic religious practice, society and economy. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the form, character and development of Cistercian monastic foundations in Fife and across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the castle as NS98NE 3.

Culross Abbey is a property in the care of Scottish Ministers.


Fawcett, R (2002) Scottish medieval churches: architecture and furnishings, 29, 75, 80, 81, 107, 134, 240, 252, 271, 295, 330-331, 360. Stroud.

Lindsay, I G (1959) The Royal Burgh of Culross. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1896-7) The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century, 3v: vol 2, 231-43. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D (1905) 'Culross Abbey', Trans Edinburgh Architect Assoc, vol 3, 5-8.

RCAHMS (1933) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, 70-77. Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Culross Abbey
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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