18 Mar 2010

A monument to strength

I have visited Holyrood Abbey twice, the first time in the height of summer but without a camera, and the second on a day so cold my fingers went numb as I tried to focus the lens.

Holyrood Abbey pre-dates the Royal Palace to which it is attached, and since no photography is allowed in the palace, I was restricted to the courtyard and to this once-grand hall of worship.

Below is the courtyard, the green lawn seeming all the brighter surrounded by grey. Walk down the left hand side and at the end of the hall there will be an entrance leading to the abbey. On a cold day the wind will hit you as soon as you reach the turn, making your entire body tense. And on a summer’s day…well, mind your kilt.
The abbey has been a ruin since 1768 and makes me think of a pop-up book that someone has left open on a table. I am posting the photos of the abbey in sepia because I liked the illusion of warmth it gives. To me it makes the stones seem more dream-like, and I am in the mood for such things.
As legend would have it, it was in 1128 when the foundations of this building were born in the heart of a king during a moment of grave danger. Johannes and Gregan from the Barony of Crawford stepped in to save King David I just as he was about to be gauged by a rampaging deer in the forests near Edinburgh. The brothers were knighted and the next year the king founded the abbey. Down the lines the legend spread and even today the crest of Clan Crawford bears a buck’s head and a cross to mark the occasion.

The story reminded me of a painting that hangs in the National Gallery, depicting Colin Fitzgerald about to spear a stag through the head, thereby saving Alexander III of Scotland from its furious attack. Similar tale, different royal. Not the most talented hunters, obviously.
I learned today that there is a chance I will be attending a garden party in London at Buckingham Palace this summer. Should I see a deer trotting anywhere near Her Majesty, I shall cast off my heels, bellow Tutum te robore reddam! ("I will give you safety by strength,” the saying that appears on the Crawford crest) and heave myself in front of it to save her.

She needn’t build me a church. A nice little cottage in Perthshire would do me just fine.

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