Tuesday, 14 August 2012

St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith

The plan for today was to visit a graveyard. Good weather was forecast (and duly appeared) and Dalkeith graveyard had long been on my list for a possible visit. But as you will see from the rest of the pictures there was so much more to see than just a graveyard, beautiful as that graveyard is. No pictures of that today but hopefully within the next few days I'll make sure you can feast your eyes on some spectacular gravestones. 
What we hadn't realized was that the church itself was an ancient monument and well worth a visit in it's own right. There has been a church on this place since the early 13th Century and the present building was begun in 1406 and largely completed by 1420.  During the reformation in the 16th Century the apse was deemed to be no longer necessary as all priest were gone and a wall was erected between choir and the rest of the church (still in use today). That part of the building, containing the choir or apse, fell into ruin.
Then in 1962 a group of volunteers started to remove the debris through the above seen opening, now a gate donated by the Duke of Buccleugh, but originally known as "The Priests' Door". More than a hundred tons of rubble was dug out.
All of the work was overseen by what remained of the internal decoration inside the original choir such as the head seen above as well as the gargoyles on the outside of the building.
 Inside there can now be admired the fallen off parts of some of the old gravestones outside as well as

this intriquing little door. The choir was used as a prison in Cromwellian times so that might be an explanation but originally it was probably the door to the lower storey of the sacristy, known as the Buccleugh Burial Vault. We didn't get to go inside and in all honesty it looks extremely uninviting and very dark!
The highlight of the choir ruins however is the Morton Monument, which has recently been restored and is now covered by a wooden piece of scaffolding with a ceiling to protect this memorial from further deterioration due to wind and weather. It is believed to be the burial place of James, First Earl of Morton  and 4th Lord of Dalketih, and his bride, the countess, Princess Joan, the third daughter of king James I of Scotland. They married on the 15th May, 1459. The princess was deaf and mute from birth and is referred to in historical documents as La Muta Domina (the Dumb Lady). The Earl died in 1498 and his lady 7 years or so later.

 Both are garded by little lions (I'm guessing here) laying at their feet on beautifull carved cushions
and their own heads too rest on even more gorgeous pillows, which I as an embroiderer am guessing were hand-embroidered. And just look at those amazing tassels
At the back of their heads can be seen their individual armorial bearings carved on a shield. Above hers, the Douglas and Royal Arms impaled.
The Earl was rumoured to be a very religious man, bestowing benefactions and gifting lands for the building of the hospice of St. Martha used by pilgrims on their way to the monastery of Inchcolm as well as being responsible for the building of the church in which his monument now rests. He also refused to take part in military expeditions (a very early pacifist! which must have been almost unheard off in his day) and that might well be why he is shown in what is probably Parliamentary dress (see above) rather than in armour.
Here they are together, him on the far side and she nearer to us. Their faces are almost gone but there exists an engraving dating back to 1862 where the faces are still more or less in tact. The memorial monument was probably not erected till 1520 at the earliest.  The above picture will be my blip for today and chosen specially as the theme for one of the groups (Calumet) on Blipfoto is "LOVE". And here they are, a loving couple (we hope) still together after more than 500 years. If that's not true love, I don't know what is!

There is much helpful information available in the coffee shop (first time we found a coffee shop in a graveyard!) which is run by volunteers and where you can obtain the key to the apse. And information boards tell you all you want to know about this place's long history. It's imbued by a very special atmosphere and I hope to share more about the gravestones with you soon. They too were astonishing.


Christine Moon said...

Wow! Amazing - and the history is fabulous! Thanks for taking the time to share it all - it is really amazing to see the detail that is still intact on the gargoyles and the pillows -

Victoria said...

Wowness...such intense beauty and powerful images..thankyou for sharing these very special gems..such treasures!! Visually stunning..each image is like a sacred poem speaking to my heart!! thankyou for sharing this journey!

Linda said...

Beautiful photos and the detail! Love the history, thanks for including the story.

Linda said...

Just catching up after being away a bit-I don't want to miss any of your photos and posts. And what can I say here without being so repetitive...what a spectacular place to visit-the carvings are absolutely stunning!!


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