Fearn Abbey: The Lamp of the North: 1

This afternoon I have been out and about photographing Fearn Abbey which is located very near to where I live. As with so many churches and religious sites here in Scotland, it was firmly locked…so I was not able to go in, but made do with photographing the outside in the brilliant autumn sunshine.

The Monastery of Fearn, the most northerly medieval monastery in Scotland was established in the early C13th by Farquhar MacTaggart, first Earl of Ross. The monks, known as White Canons [from the colour of their robes] were part of an order called Premonstravensians, named after Premontar in the North of France where they were founded in 1120. There were 5 other monasteries of white canons in Scotland, including Dryburgh and Whithorn.

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The Premonstratensians were among the religious orders with their own rite, who kept it after Pope Pius V suppressed such rites with a continuous tradition of less than two hundred years. The Premonstratensian Rite was especially characterized by a ritual solemnity. The Premonstratensian Rite was also characterized by an emphasis on the Paschal Mystery unique among the Latin rites. This was especially seen in the solemnity with which the daily conventional high mass and office was celebrated during the Easter octave, especially vespers which concluded with a procession to the baptismal font, a practice paralleled among the Latin rites only in similar processions still found in the Ambrosian Rite. Another unique practice of the Premonstratensian Rite was the celebration of a daily votive mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary in each of its abbeys and priories.

The monasteries original location was further north, near Edderton, and stated as being “next to Kincaard in Stracharrin.” After 15 years however it was moved to this site, possibly because of more fertile lands for farming. It is thought that there were about seven or eight canons, all priests, ruled over by an abbot. After the Reformation, it was used as a parish church, until one Sunday in 1742 the roof collapsed on the congregation, killing 36 people. It was not used again until 1772 after repairs had been done and has been in use ever since. Fearn abbey served as the burial site for the Earls of Ross.

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