From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Sweetheart Abbey

Dumfries and Galloway
54° 58′ 48.74″ N, 3° 37′ 7.21″ W

  • History
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Sweetheart Abbey, also known as Duice Cor, is a Cistercian monastery located on the banks of the Pow Burn, in the village of New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway.

The abbey was founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway, in the memory of her husband, John de Balliol. She kept his embalmed heart in a casket made of ivory and silver with her for the rest of her life. Their son, named after his father, became king of Scotland.

Henry, the first abbot, built the abbey using the local red sandstone in the early English style. It was a daughter house to the nearby Dundrennan Abbey. The abbey grounds extended to approx. 30 acres and parts of the surrounding walls can still be seen. The abbey church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.

The Abbot of Sweetheart was a member of the First Estate and sat ex officio in the Parliament. The Cistercian Order, whose members were known as the White Monks due to the white cowl worn over their religious habit, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100.

During the First War of Scottish Independence, King Edward I of England himself resided at the abbey in 1300, while campaigning in Galloway. After 50 years of warfare in the region, however, the abbey was left in a dilapidated state.

Archibald Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas, became a major benefactor of the abbey in the fourteenth century. He financed repair work and the rebuilding of the abbey. Once again the abbey suffered and fell into ruin, after Archibald died. Sadly the graves of the foundress and her husband were lost.

The abbey continued in quiet obscurity until it was eventually suppressed in the Scottish Reformation.

A 14th century prayer book known as The Sweetheart Abbey Breviary, is now in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.