Medieval Abbeys Under Siege: A Trip to the Scottish Borders

By Hannah Purtymun

Hannah is a native of Los Alamos, New Mexico. She graduated with dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Studies from Colorado State University in the Spring of 2018. She is currently pursuing an MSc in Medieval History at the University of Edinburgh where she is also President of the Late Antique and Medieval Postgraduate Society.

Group photograph

The Festival of Creative Learning trip “Medieval Abbeys Under Siege” which was organised by the Late Antique and Medieval Postgraduate Society at the University of Edinburgh took students on a trip into history.

Visiting four different abbeys along the border between Scotland and England, students were able to learn about and envision a period of history ranging from the foundation of the abbeys in the early 12th century to their declining or changing usage in the 17th century.

Abbeys provided an important function in medieval society, housing monks and nuns of religious orders while also providing care, refuge and sometimes even education to those in need. Not only were these abbeys places of life and religious practice, they also currently act as the historic final resting places of Sir Walter Scott and (possibly) the heart of Robert the Bruce.

The medieval abbeys that rest on the Scottish border experienced hundreds of years of unrest as they were the perfect target for attacks during the Wars of Independence and the Protestant Reformation. The abbeys of Dryburgh, Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose are maintained by Historic Environment Scotland and provide the perfect medium for hands-on and creative learning.

Abbey Photo

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