Pluscarden Abbey

After an interval of nearly 400 years, Benedictine monastic life began anew at Pluscarden. After the Reformation, the Priory had been in the hands of lay owners. In 1897, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, and author of the eccentric but enormously useful translation of the Roman Breviary, purchased the Priory from the Duke of Fife. A devout and wealthy philanthropist, he helped the Presyterian congregation who had been using the ruins for services to build a Church in the glen, and arranged for Catholic Mass to be celebrated in the Prior's Chapel by Dom Sir David Oswald Hunter Blair Bt OSB of Fort Augustus Abbey.

On the death of the Marquess, the property passed to his son, Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart who was eager for a monastic community to take up residence. Eventually, he found Abbot Wilfred Upson of Prinknash willing to found a new monastic community and in 1948, five monks began to live the Benedictine life once more in the Priory.

The community has carried out much restoration work in the meantime. Here is an example from the Dunbar vestry:

Although the nave of the Church is missing, the East End is quite well preserved:


To the West of the Church, the community have built the St Benedict's guest house which offers hospitality to men:

This was where I stayed during the past week. The accommodation is simple but perfectly adequate. Guests are expected to enter into the spirit of the monastic life, including the dimension of manual work. At a minimum, this involves cleaning the room in preparation for the next guest to use it.

There is also St Scholastica's guest house for women, situated outside the main ground of the Abbey. There were several women staying during the week - one couple had come for a visit of a few days and stayed in separate accommodation on retreat.

One of the senior members of the community is Dom Camillus, a kindly man who has time to talk to the many visitors who come to the monastery each day. I asked him to hear my confession during my retreat - a special celebration of the sacrament in which traditionally, one tries to look at besetting sins and faults. I was very grateful for his kindly and wise advice.

While touring round with my camera one afternoon, I found him with this magnolia bush which was donated in honour of his 40th anniversary - I am afraid I cannot remember whether it was his profession or ordination that was commemorated.

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