Legend tells of the miraculous event that saved the life of King David I and the beautiful abbey he built in honor of the event.
As the story goes…… The King was hunting in the royal forest of Drumsheugh when he was thrown from his horse in front of a great white “hart” (stag) and he was speared in the thigh by the antlers of the great beast.
Suddenly, as he fought with the stag, a crucifix or “holy rood” miraculously appeared either in the King’s hands or between the stag’s antlers, startling it and saving the king’s life. In thanks to God, in 1128, King David endowed the “monastery of the Holy Rood” to serve the Augustinian community and built the abbey close to the spot of his deliverance.
This original structure is long gone and only the east processional doorway into the cloister survives from the first church. The church was lavishly rebuilt between 1195 and 1230 and the Parliament of Scotland was held inside.
Even the famous Robert the Bruce held his parliament at the abbey in 1326.
Charles I in 1633.
Eventually, the damaged choir and transepts were pulled down and the remaining structure was converted for Protestant use. In 1633, the nave was extensively restored for the coronation of Charles I.
The abbey housed royal tombs until they were desecrated in 1688 during the overthrow of King James II of England (James VII of Scotland). After that the royal tombs were removed and relocated.
Hollyrood Abbey’s skeleton is romantic and poetic, creating a space where as you wander through its graceful remains, you can’t help but feel a little sad at its lonely interior, wide open to the wintery sky and populated only by brief secular visits from tourists like me.