Edinburgh, United Kingdom
July 6, 2002
I first entered through the entrance to the right of the nave, which is the part that faces Abbey Close. This brought me into an entryway, and a door to the shop and café was to the right, and the door to the Abbey itself was straight ahead. When I went through the wooden doors, I was in St Mirin Chapel, which is very bright and decorated with Paisley’s War Memorial. For a period of time, it was a completely separate chapel used by the Hamilton family. There were some leaflets on a nearby table, including a self-guided tour which I found very useful.
I turned left into the nave, the western-most part of the Abbey. Right here was the oldest part of the church, with the 12th century Transitional architecture showing in the first three windows and the processional Cloisters doorway. At the end of this wall was a small room housing the Barochan Cross, a famous and very tall 10th century Celtic cross. Behind the cross is the 19th century Wallace Memorial Window. I explored the rest of the nave and then moved on to the north transept, which has two very fine stained glass windows, and a couple war memorials.
Before I even moved into the choir, I spotted a beautiful mostly-blue stained glass window on the south wall. It turned out to be the James D D Shaw Memorial Window. This window was designed and installed in the second half of the 1980s, but using 14th century techniques and materials. Under the window was the organ, originally built in 1872. I finally actually moved into the choir, and then I could see what became my favorite area of the Abbey: the ornate choir stalls, with intricate carvings of birds, animals, flowers and fruits along the entire length. Further past the choir stalls are two very interesting tombs. The first is that of Marjory Bruce, the daughter of Robert the Bruce, and the second that of Robert III.
Just past here I went into a small room with an exhibition about life in the Abbey. There were several artifacts on display and boards explaining them, and then more information about how the monks daily lives would have operated — with their required prayer times and so on. It was a nice reminder that this magnificent building was indeed intended for living people.
There are many other fine things to see, including several stained glass windows. The self-guided tour leaflet mentions more than I have space for here. And unfortunately, none of my photos of the stained glass windows turned out well.
The Abbey is open Monday to Saturday 10am-3:30pm. There are services on Sundays at 11am, 12:15pm and 6:30pm. Admission is free.
From journal Paisley: Not Exactly a Suburb of Glasgow