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GREYFRIARS CONVENT

AND CHURCH, ELGIN

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One of the most handsome buildings in the North of Scotland is that of Greyfriars Convent and Church, Elgin, situated in Abbey Street.

The most interesting part of the building is the Church. On looking up the nave towards the altar, our view is broken by the magnificently carved timber screen which divides the Church in two.

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It supports a copy of the famous crucifix before which St. Francis knelt in the Church of San Damiano in Assisi, when Our Lord told him to rebuild His crumbling Church.

The splendid barrel-vaulted ceiling stretches unbroken to the stained glass window above the altar. There we see the figure of Christ the King, leading a throng of Virgins through a garden in flower - the Land Lost, Promised and now regained in Heaven.

 

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Flanking the wrought iron gates of the screen are two altars; Our Lady of Ransom and Saints connected with their work of mercy, on one side, and St.Francis of Assisi and other Franciscan Saints on the other.

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The beautiful aumbry at the side of the high altar is once more used for its original purpose, namely to house the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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The Convent itself has a beautiful cloister and there is an interesting well in the centre of the quadrangle.

The present buildings were erected for "Observantine Friars" of the Franciscan Order by Bishop Innes in 1479. The Monastery was inhabited by monks until 1560 when the property fell to the Crown.

Towards the end of the 16th century Greyfriars was used as a "Justice House" and as a meeting place for the Incorporated Trades.

William King, Provost of Elgin, became the owner in1684 and turned part of the former priory into a mansion

The King family lived there for 120 years - their tombstones can be seen in the Church - which in their time was used for Episcopalian services - but the uninhabited buildings were allowed to fall into ruins.

From 1818, the property was owned by the Stewart family, then passed into the hands of Colonel Leslie of Kinninvie. In 1891 he sold these old ruins of the Franciscan Monastery and Church, which had lain in that state for some three hundred years, to the Elgin Community of the Sisters of Mercy.

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At this time, the Sisters were living in cramped conditions in St.Mary’s, the original convent, which occupied the site of the new St. Sylvester’s School. However they were unable to build or maintain the Greyfriars buildings, and the property was bought by the Marquis of Bute, Lord John Crichton Stuart.

The restoration of these buildings, as they are today, was begun in 1896 by the Marquis, but he died before their completion.

On the 4th October 1898, a Mass was celebrated in the restored Greyfriars Chapel for the first time in three centuries, and the "Northern Scot" of the day reported that the service was held on St.Francis’s Day and was attended by 800 people, with another 200 - 300 outside. The restoration work was continued by Lord Colum Crichton Stuart, the youngest son of the Marquis, and was finished in 1908, the style of the old building of the fifteenth century having been faithfully adhered to. In 1944, Greyfriars was handed over to the Sisters of Mercy by Lord Colum.

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Thi 1971 the Sisters of Mercy celebrated the centenary of their arrival in Elgin.in October 1998, the Sisters of Mercy and their guests attended a special Mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Greyfriars Convent and Church, with Bishop Conti, as the chief celebrant, along with theParish Priest the Rev.Alistair Doyle, clergy from neighbouring parishes, and theRt.Rev. Hugh Gilbert, Abbot of Pluscarden. Among those attending was Era Frederik Crichton -Stuart, great grandson of the 3rd Marquis of Bute.

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 Here in Elgin in medieval times there had been one of the largest clusters of religious houses to be found in any Scottish town.

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The Verdun Crucifix

 

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The Maison Dieu Hospital and the Convents of the Greyfriars and the Blackfriars are still remembered by the roads which bear their names.

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