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Pluscarden Abbey and Monastic Buildings, excluding Scheduled Monument No 2144 'Pluscarden Priory, precinct walls', Elgin (Ref:8441)

This building is in the Moray Council and the Elgin Parish. It is a category A building and was listed on 26/01/1971.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: NJ 1420 5761.


Founded 1230. Abbey Church originally planned as cruciform church but it is unlikely that the nave ever existed above the surviving footings. Serious fire circa 1390 and subsequent rebuilding in 15th century. Built in squared rubble and ashlar.

NORTH TRANSEPT: most visible survival of 13th century work; lancet windows with large rose window in each gable, clerestory passage in north wall thickness. Glass by Sadie McLellan (Glasgow). 2 chapels originally opened from north wall, arches now filled and chapels with 13th century detail and stone vaulted roof now form transepts to the chancel.

CROSSING: remains of massive shafted columns now mainly encased in later masonry, possibly applied after the fire, supporting solid squat tower with blind cusped panels below parapet. Original rood screen gone but traces of small stair survive; across the chancel arch is a gallery with arms of the 8 secular families who owned the Abbey between 1560 and 1943.

SOUTH TRANSEPT: probably 14th century with elaborate and progressive detailing to the clerestory and passage, the latter spanning the 3-light windows and with subsiduary pointed arches flanking the shafts on the intervening wall space. 2 original vaulted side chapels more elaborate but reoriented as at north. Night stair leads from south transept, stepped, 5-light window in south gable head.

CHANCEL: some traces of Romanesque detail but this old fashioned style superseded (after the fire?) by a daring arrangement of windows, the mouldings of the reveals, show the vast planned size of the windows now filled with later masonry and smaller intersecting traceried windows on south wall (possibly for stability). East window now 4 lancets with large 3-light traceried window above, vesica and apex opening. Finely carved sacrament house and 3 sedilia. Modern timber panelled ceiling. Considerable remains of 15th century wall painting can be found around the chancel arch, the chancel transepts and the Lady Chapel.

LADY CHAPEL: to south of south transept, a squint opens from the chancel transept, groin vaulted roof.

DUNBAR SACRISTY: later (?) 16th century addition at northeast with vaulted roof. Monastic range (east side of original cloister). 2 storeys, now with attic rooms.

LADY CHAPEL: (a) south of Chapter House with paired doors deeply recessed and flanked by elaborate arrangement of nook shafts; central trumeau, (b) the Slype, (c) the Calefactory.

Remains of cloister garth and Prior's House to southwest of Abbey Church.


House of Valliscaulian Monks founded 1230 by Alexander II. United 1454 with Urquhart Priory (also Moray, now demolished) of Benedictines. After 1560 monks continued in decreasing numbers to inhabit Priory until circa 1590. 1594 sold to Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. 1662 to Brodies of Lethen. By 1710 Pluscarden property of Duff of Dipple who became earl of Fife; purchased by 3rd Marquis of Bute in 1889 and gifted to Benedictines of Prinknash by his heirs in 1943. Reroofing and restoration followed, by late Ian Lindsay and W Murray Jack (still in progress 1987).

'Pluscarden Priory, precinct walls' is Scheduled Monument No 2144 and is excluded from the listing.

Listed building record and statutory address updated in 2015. Previously listed as 'Pluscarden, Abbey, Monastic Buildings and Precinct Walls.'


Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html  CANMORE ID 16094

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1870, Published 1874) Elgin Sheet XII.9. 25 Inches to the Mile Map. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

MacGibbon, D. & Ross, T. (1896) The Ecclesiastical Architecture Of Scotland, Edinburgh: D. Douglas. Vol 2. pp.146-160.

Young , R. (1879) Annals Of The Parish And Burgh Of Elgin. Elgin: R. Young. pp.28-39.

Anson,  P. F. (1959) Monastery In Moray. London: SPCK.

Skinner, B. & Hay, G. (1981) Guide Book to Pluscarden Abbey.

© Crown copyright, Historic Scotland. All rights reserved. Mapping information derived from Ordnance Survey digital mapping products under Licence No. 100017509 2012 . Data extracted from Scottish Ministers' Statutory List on . Listing applies equally to the whole building or structure at the address set out in bold at the top of the list entry. This includes both the exterior and the interior, whether or not they are mentioned in the 'Information Supplementary to the Statutory List'. Listed building consent is required for all internal and external works affecting the character of the building. The local planning authority is responsible for determining where listed building consent will be required and can also advise on issues of extent or "curtilage" of the listing, which may cover items remote from the main subject of the listing such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. or interior fixtures. All category C(S) listings were revised to category C on 3rd September 2012. This was a non-statutory change. All enquiries relating to proposed works to a listed building or its setting should be addressed to the local planning authority in the first instance. All other enquiries should be addressed to: Listing & Designed Landscapes Team, Historic Scotland, Room G.51, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, EDINBURGH, EH9 1SH. Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8701 / 8705. Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8765. e-mail: hs.listing@scotland.gsi.gov.uk. Web: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildings.

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Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and exterior of all listed buildings regardless of category.

ACategory A

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (Approximately 8% of the total).

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