” … as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
These words were made famous in the Declaration of Arbroath (1320). Even although Robert Bruce defeated Edward II of England at Bannockburn (1314), the Wars of Independence were not ended. The English had Pope John XXII keep the sentence of excommunication passed on King Robert in 1306 and in response, 40 Scottish nobles, barons and freemen sent an apologia to Pope John. This formal document, probably drafted by Abbot Bernard of Arbroath (King Robert’s chancellor), stated that Scotland was an independent and sovereign kingdom.
Arbroath Abbey has always fascinated me, mostly because of the history behind the building. I’ve never been there but it’s on my wish list and some day I hope to go and see it.
Some other historical facts on the Abbey are that it is an expression of the European twin-towered church façade design and a reflection of the piety of Scotland’s medieval kings. Founded in 1178 by King William I, it was a tribute to William’s childhood friend, Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury), who was murdered in 1170.
The king invited the monks from Kelso Abbey to establish the monastery and when he died in 1214, he was buried before the high altar.
Until the Scottish Reformation in 1560, religious life continued on at the abbey. However in 1580, parts of the abbey were taken to construct a new burgh church and by 1700, the abbey looked the way it does today.
For more information, see the Historic Scotland website.