MY SCOTLAND ~ HER CASTLES ~ A LITTLE HISTORY
Welcome back to my dream holiday to Scotland and the next part of our exciting journey.
After leaving the formidable Threave Castle, my husband and I returned east. These are some of the inland sights we saw along the way.
We left the luscious green rolling hills and pastures and continued along the Solway Coast Road.
A rather murky looking Solway Firth
And arrived at our next destination. Though not a castle, we couldn't pass by as this destination has both a romantic history and a romantic name.
Sweetheart Abbey North Transept & Great Arches of the Nave
The Story Of Sweetheart
On the 10th of April 1273, Lady Devorgilla, a lady of the blood royal of Scotland, signed a charter establishing a new Cistercian abbey on a site close to where the River Nith flows into the Solway Firth and is overshadowed by a great granite mountain, Criffel.
Her beloved husband, John Balliol, had died four years earlier and the abbey was intended as a lasting memorial to him.
Great East Window & Cemetery
On her husband's death in 1269, the grieving widow had his heart embalmed and placed in a casket of ivory, bound with enamelled silver.
On Lady Devorgilla's death in 1289, in her eighty-first year, the casket was buried with her in the sanctuary of the monastery church she had founded.
The Cloister - grassy foreground. The Choir - far right
The Choir is on the right and is the holiest part of the church. A modern stone marks the approximate place where Lady Devorgilla was buried with her husband's heart.
It was a fitting tribute to her undying love that the monks there chose the beautiful name of Sweetheart, or Dulce Cor, for the abbey.
The Cistercian Order
The Cistercians or the 'white monks' as they were more generally known by the colour of their undyed woollen habit, established their first monastery in 1098 at Citeaux in France and arrived in Scotland at Melrose, in Tweeddale, in 1136.
Looking east down Nave into Presbytery and Central Bell Tower
Outside the church, the Cistercians were famed for their farming skills. They specialised in agriculture and in horse and cattle breeding. They also held great interest in the wool trade. They controlled certain fisheries and were involved in the manufacture of salt from sea-water.
West Front of the Abbey Church
Sweetheart was the last of the 12 Cistercian monasteries set up in Scotland.
War With England
Lady Devorgilla and John Balliol had a son, also John. In 1292, he became the King Of Scots, but his was to be a short, tragic reign. The English king stripped him of his regalia in 1296, heralding the bloody and prolonged war that bedevilled the country for the next fifty years.
Archibald The Grim
The war with England had impoverished Sweetheart and reduced its buildings to a state of disrepair. In 1352, David II, Robert the Bruce's son and successor, returned from a lengthy captivity in England and began the task of returning the country to prosperity.
A new patron had to be found for the abbey and King David turned to his close friend, Archibald Douglas, who was more popularly known as 'Black Archibald' or 'the Grim' and had earned his by-name fighting against the English.
West Range - Above this arch is a shield bearing the Douglas Arms
The Final Years
The last abbot of Sweetheart was Gilbert Broun, who stolidly refused to embrace the reformed religion. His determination to keep the Catholic faith alive saw him arrested and exiled to France several times between 1587 and 1608 where he eventually died in 1612.
Destruction of the Buildings
In 1731 a new church was built against the south wall of the nave. This was demolished in 1877, by which date all but the magnificent church had been removed to provide stone for the villagers and farming folk. The church had been saved in 1779 by local subscribers 'desirous of preserving the remainder of that building as an ornament to that part of the country'.
In 1928 their successors entrusted the beautiful ruin of Sweetheart into State care.
Thanks for dropping by. I hope you've enjoyed this part of our Scottish adventure as much as I've loved reliving it. I hope you return to see where we stop next ~
Information care of Historic Scotland