The South Range Project
Pluscarden Abbey dates back to 1230, when King Alexander ll built a monastery for a community of Monks from Burgundy. After the Reformation of Parliament in 1560, religious life at the monastery was discontinued and the property passed to a series of lay owners who allowed it to fall into ruin. In 1897, the monastery was bought by the third Marquis of Bute who hoped to restore the buildings to religious use, but died only three years later. The property passed to Butes youngest son, Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart, who lacked the means to continue the restoration work. Eventually, Lord Colum gave the property to the Benedictine monks of Prinkash Abbey, near Gloucester, for them to restore the monastery to its original use. In 1947 Ian Lindsay drew up plans for the complete restoration of the buildings. In 1948, five monks took up residence, monastic life began again and restoration work on the buildings commenced.
In the 66 years since then, about two-thirds of the original buildings have been restored and an ivy-clad ruin has become a working Benedictine Abbey. The 20 resident monks attend to the daily running of the monastery, which centres on the 8 church services each day, together with the reception of guests and visitors and the attendant daily chores of cooking, laundry, cleaning and maintenance. They also keep a vegetable and fruit garden to provide for the kitchen and some produce for sale. The Abbey has an estimated 15,000 visitors each year, with around 400 people staying as guests. The monastery is Grade A listed historic building.
For the monks, the whole purpose of the Abbey is to provide an environment for prayer and worship, to which they have dedicated their lives. The fact that this environment is also a unique historical site and an area of outstanding beauty certainly makes it a treasure of Scottish cultural heritage. However, in preserving this treasure it must be remembered that it is monastic life which originally brought it into being, promoted its restoration and maintains the timeless, peaceful atmosphere which visitors, guests and retreatants come to find and enjoy.
Objectives for restoration of the South Range.
- To rebuild the medieval monastery’s south range in a style in harmony with the rest of the abbey, i.e. with slate roof, stone walls and carved masonry details
- To enable guests and visitors to enjoy the unique environment while preserving the peace and seclusion necessary for the monastic life
- To make the monastic library available to the public
The first stage of the project will be fundraising. This will be the third major fundraising and building campaign the Abbey has gone through. The first, around 1980, was for the restoration of the roof of the chancel which enabled full use of the Church again. The second, around ten years later, was for the building of the present men’s guest house. The South Range Project, we believe, should be the last that will require major fundraising. It will complete the rebuilding of Pluscarden undertaken when the (re-)founding monks arrived in 1948. The monks view it not simply as placing stone on stone, but “as giving a physical expression to the life of the Gospels in the form that we are called to live it, and in particular to the way we are to share what we have with all who come here.”