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Auld Kirk of St Monans

St Monans Church which probably lies closer to the sea than any other church in Scotland is situated close to St Monans Shrine. It is uncertain whether St Monan, an Irish missionary ever really lived and preached here. According to some, St Monan lived in a nearby cave but according to others it was only his relics which were brought here. Whichever story is true, St Monans Church was erected on the site of the legend and is amongst the finest Medieval churches in Scotland.

A replacement of an earlier church here was erected in the 14th century by order of King David II (Robert the Bruce's son). This was an act of thanks for his survival. According to the legend, David II was wounded in the Battle of Neville's Cross. On his visit to St Monan's shrine his arrow wound mysteriously healed itself. Well, that's one story. Another relates how he landed here after his ship was wrecked in the Forth.

St Monans then is a church built upon and shrouded in mystery. Gothic in design, St Monans is built to a cruciform shape yet for some unknown reason the church was never finished. Subsequently, only 3 of the four arms of the cross were built giving the church a highly unusual and irregular shape.

1544 was a bad year for St Monans. The English raided the village from the sea and sunk or bunt the fishermen's boats. St Monans Church was also set ablaze. By the 17th century, the transepts were in ruins but services were still held in the chancel. Some restoration was carried out but by 1793, it continued to be “a most uncomfortable place of worship”. Damp and cold, “its walls covered with green mould, and presenting altogether an aspect of chilling desolation.” (Gillies). This report infused a new life into the church. In 1822, a new bell rang out from the top of the steeple in replacement of an earlier bell that was hung from a tree in the cemetery (but superstitiously removed during herring season lest it frightened the fish away!). However, the rest of the restoration work carried out at the time left much to be desired. Sir David Leslie's remains were unearthed from the north transept and a vestibule was added while the floor was lowered by as much as four feet. The costs for this were partially rendered through seat rents, a practice which was continued till as late as the early 20th century.

St Monans was finally properly restored in the 1950's with money bequeathed for the purpose by a local. The floor was raised and the pulpit moved to the left. Having withstood the 'whips and arrows of outrageous fortune”, St Monans has also managed to retain its Gothic character. On your visit, you'll see aumbries, piscinas and sedilia or stone seats for priests in use before the Restoration. Rather unusually, you will also see a 19th century model of a Royal Navy Frigate suspended from the ceiling.

Location
Town/city or near: St Monans
County: Fife

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Auld Kirk of St Monans

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