1“St. Andrews. – The thread of evidence which has been furnished by the individual character of John Morow’s work, as revealed in the buildings already described, has been remarkable for its freedom from entanglement. This immunity ceases, however, when an attempt is made to trace his work at St. Andrews. It is necessary now to examine and describe work executed over an extended period of time – a period of greater extent than could be assigned, with reason, to the working life of one man.
St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews, was founded by Bishop James Kennedy about the year 1450.2 The only portions remaining are the chapel and the tower, which enclosed the great quadrangle on the south side. The chapel is a long narrow structure, of seven bays, with an apsidal termination. The founder’s arms are carved on the principal entrance. The head of the doorway is trigonal. The sketch in the margin shews the small door in the north wall of the chapel, which is similar in design. I also indicate the mouldings of this door, together with those of the principal entrance. All the great buttresses on the exterior are ornamented with richly-sculptured niches. The royal arms of Scotland are carved on the sill of a niche near the east end, and, on the one adjoining, Bishop Kennedy’s arms are repeated. The window tracery is modern and of poor design. The parapet and pinnacles are also modern. The principal entrance to the College was evidently in the great tower which stands at the west end of the chapel. There is a beautiful carved panel above the gateway, with a shield bearing Bishop Kennedy’s arms, surmounted by a mitre, and supported by two angels. The motto of the Kennedys – AVYSE LA FYN – is carved on a ribbon beneath the shield. The sketch in the margin indicates the general design of the panel with the tracery in the upper part. The principal points of this tracery are decorated with a fleur–de–lis. With the exception of a richly-carved niche on each side of the panel, the tower is absolutely plain until the level of the clock is reached, when the work of the middle of the fifteenth century ceases.3
The interior of the chapel has been destroyed. The ashlar walls are now covered with lath and plaster; the windows in the north wall are blinded up; and the stone and, doubtless, richly-carved vaulted roof, has been removed, in order to replace it with one of timber. A shield, bearing Bishop Kennedy’s arms, and surmounted by a mitre, projects through the plaster on the north wall, and a very fine stone Sacrament-house is carved on the north-east wall of the apsidal end. Its cornice is decorated with three shields. The one on the left bears the arms of Scotland, and the one on the right the arms of Bishop Kennedy. The centre shield has been carefully chiselled away, but it probably bore the arms of the Church of Rome.4
Whilst no other part of Bishop Kennedy’s foundation remains intact, the drawing in the margin shews the outline and detail of an arch lying in loose fragments in the College quadrangle. A few broken fragments of the jambs are also preserved, with the moulded capitals. This arch is evidently of the same date as the chapel, and I have been assured that it formed part of the College Fount or Well.5 It is reminiscent of the arches in the Rood Screens of Glasgow and Lincluden.
It is impossible to pass from a description of the work of this date without referring to the beautiful silver College Mace.6 Bishop Kennedy’s initials – J. K. – frequently occur in the design, and, on a separate seal, there is a Latin inscription beginning with his name, and ending with the date 1461. His motto appears at the top of the seal – AVISSES A LA FIN. There are three shields on the Mace, engraved, one with the arms of the See of St. Andrews; the second with the arms of the Church of Rome. The Mace was made in Paris, as the inscription on the washer declares – JOHNE MAIEL GOVLDSMCHE AND VERLETE OFF CHAMER TIL YE LORDE YE DALFYNE HES MADE YIS MASSE IN YE TOUNE OF PARIS YE ZER OF OUR LORDE MCCCCLXI.7 But was it made by a Frenchman? This question has never been asked, although the inscription is neither in Latin nor in French, but in Scots. The Dauphin referred to was in 1461, King Louis XI. of France. His first wife was Margaret, eldest daughter of the Scots king. Jean Mayelle was “garde” or warden of the Goldsmiths of Paris in 1460.8 One of the most famous goldsmiths in Paris in 1412 was Jean Hasquin.9 Scots names on French lips and pens were strangely metamorphosed,10 and Hasquin may be identified as Erskine. “Maiel,” as the owner himself spelt it, diifers in no sense from “Meile,” as it occurs in Liber de Melros,11 or “Meill,” as it occurs in the Exchequer Rolls, at the end of the fifteenth century, in the account of Ross and Ardmanach.12 The architectural detail of the Mace is very rich and very beautiful, nor will this be surprising when it is remembered that the goldsmiths’ workshops were the training schools for all art-workers. The many figures with which the Mace is adorned are carefully executed, and – giving evidence of Bishop Kennedy’s own mind and direction – each one is designed to take its part in the representation of one idea, which may be described as The Glorification of the Saviour.
Bishop Kennedy stands out prominently as one of the greatest Churchmen Scotland had produced. Born in the year 1405 or 1406, a younger son of James Kennedy of Dunure and Mary, daughter of King Robert III., he completed his education abroad. Preferred to the See of Dunkeld, in 1437 he set on foot a Reformation within the Church, and, to further this, undertook a journey to Florence, to the Pope. This proved to be a fruitless errand. The See of St. Andrews having fallen vacant whilst he was abroad, he was unanimously demanded as Bishop by the Prior and Canons. He was Chancellor of Scotland in 1444. In 1446 he visited Rome to plead again for Reformation, but his efforts were unavailing. He was appointed one of the Lords of the Regency, on the death of James II. in 1460, and virtually exercised the whole power.13 The Queen Regent visited him at St. Andrews in 1461. The architectural projects of the late King were persevered in by his widow, and she shewed her interest in the masons employed at the Bishop’s College by giving them 20 shillings in drinksilver.14 The bishop died in the month of July, 1465,15 leaving a memory without a stain. He was buried in the chapel of his own college at St. Andrews, under a beautiful monument.
Bishop Kennedy is said to have erected his monument during his lifetime.16 But it did not form an integral part of the fabric of the chapel, as was the case with Lady Margaret’s tomb in Lincluden Church. Nor, as in that case, was it a tomb. The bishop was buried in a low-arched vault beneath the level of the floor.17 And the monument was built after the church was completed.18 I give a photographic representation from which some faint conception may be gathered of the wonderful beauty of the design.19 There are two slabs of black marble; the rest of the monument is executed in an argillaceous stone of a greenish-gray colour, susceptible of the finest and most delicate finish, and yet possessing no weathering properties.20 An examination of the work shews that every stone has been completed separately, and afterwards built into its place. The front of the sarcophagus-like basement was ornamented with nine figures of angels or ecclesiastics, executed in metal certainly, and perhaps in silver.21 The niches in the gallery within the arch, and the niches above, may have been filled with statues, of stone probably, of Christ and His twelve apostles. The two niches at the end of the inner gallery tell a wonderful story, and they make it clear that the design was prepared under the bishop’s own direction, as was the case with the mace. The niche on the east side symbolises the passage of the soul to the realm of bliss as dependent on the church. The niche on the west side symbolises the freedom of the salvation offered to the devout through Christ.22 These are unique carvings, and they shew that, like all true Christian reformers, Bishop Kennedy’s desire was to get back to Christ. There is an inscription on the back of the monument, which, so far as I have been able to decipher it, seems to relate to the founding of the Church and College, with no reference to the bishop’s death.23 I have little doubt that the monument was executed in France, probably by John Maiel the goldsmith of Paris, and that it was brought to Scotland in the bishop’s barge.24
This monument divides the two periods of work at St. Andrews to which I have found it necessary to refer. But the second period does not begin with Archbishop Patrick Graham, Bishop Kennedy’s uterine brother, disciple, and successor. His was a troubled life. In the end he was deposed, and driven insane by persecution.25 Archbishop William Scheves was elected in 1478.26 The buildings of the end of the fifteenth century, however, were not erected by the archbishop, but by John Hepburn, who was prior from 1483 to 1522.27 This ecclesiastic was a brother of Patrick, Earl of Bothwell, and a nephew of George Hepburn, provost of Lincluden, and Bishop of the Isles. For some years he was Vicar-General of St. Andrews.28 He was elected archbishop by the Canons in 1513, on the death of Archbishop Alexander Stewart at Flodden. But two powerful rivals entered the field against him – Gavin Douglas and Andrew Foreman, the latter, the powerful, wealthy, and astute Bishop of Moray. Resort was had to arms. Foreman was supported by the Queen and the Duke of Albany, and John Hepburn and his friends, who had come to Edinburgh, were put “to the horne, and thairfair wes compellit to leif the toun.” Foreman was successful in the end, and the prior had to be content with “ane thousand merkis pensione.”29
St Andrews – a city of cathedrals,30 churches, and colleges – has suffered shamefully at the hands of the vandals of modern times. Nothing remains of the many treasures with which the great cathedral was adorned by Prior John Hepburn. The panel carved with his arms and those of Archbishop Scheves, which recently existed in a wall to the south of the west front of St. Leonard’s Church,31 has disappeared. The panel which is still preserved in the building immediately to the west of this church is interesting from its very close resemblance to the panel in the tower of St. Salvator’s College. The shield is supported by two angels, and below it is the prior’s motto – AD VITAM. Another panel, with the Hepburn arms, is built into the turret wall of the building now used as the Students’ Union. We know nothing of the buildings of which these panels formed a part.
St. Leonard’s Church, which was probably founded originally about the middle of the twelfth century,32 was rebuilt about the beginning of the sixteenth century. Only the north wall with the small sacristy and simple door, and part of the south wall, remain as then erected. The tower has disappeared, although it was standing in 1760.33 The west front was taken down and a portion of the church appropriated by Sir David Brewster,34 in order to increase the width of his gateway. The wretched attempt at rebuilding the gable is a fitting monument to one who was guilty of so flagrant an act. Fortunately, one or two stones of the original entrance doorway have been preserved, and from these it is possible to determine that the head of the door was trigonal, as at St. Salvator’s College. Two finely carved panels with the prior’s arms are also preserved. The one I illustrate in the margin has the letters P * I * H * carved on the protecting cornice, and it will be observed that these are of the same design as the letters on Dervorgilla’s Tomb, in Sweetheart Abbey, which I illustrated on page 313, supra. St. Leonard’s Church became the chapel of St. Leonard’s College in 1512,35 and it was at this time, I believe, that certain alterations were made in the east and south wall, carved with the prior’s arms, is poor in drawing and execution, and is certainly not the work of the artist who erected the earlier structure.
Two panels alone attest the fact that early in the sixteenth century Prior John Hepburn, added to, or altered, the Novum Hospitium, or New Inns, which stood on the south side of the pends alley. Both are very much weather-worn. One bears the royal arms of Scotland, wrought in a style similar to the panel in the abbey wall at Paisley; the other bears the prior’s arms, with the initials I * H *, and a fragment of the motto AD VITAM. There is, I believe, a fleur-de-lis in each corner of the panel.
But the greatest work with which Prior John Hepburn’s name is associated is the priory wall, a considerable part of which is still happily preserved.36 It was probably planned and, in part, erected at the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century.
It begins at the north-east corner of the cathedral, and extends now to about five-eighths of a mile in length, enclosing a large tract of ground and many buildings. It is adorned with many towers, and sculptured niches, and carved panels, and vividly recalls the description of the abbey wall at Paisley, erected in 1485.37
The three principal gateways are of finer workmanship than the wall, and were probably first erected. The panel at the side of the archway adjoining the east gable of the cathedral, and illustrated in the margin, is carved with the arms of the prior. It is similar in style to the panels on the west front of St. Leonard’s Church. The inscription below the shield has been carefully erased. Only the lower part of the wall can be assigned to the early years of the sixteenth century. There is a distinct line, at a varying distance from the ground, indicating two periods of work. As the sculpture of niches and panels – all in the upper part – is poor in design and execution, and as the panel on the square tower near the gable of the cathedral is a copy of the panel on the south wall of St. Leonard’s Church, the date of the upper part of the wall is probably about 1512. It was completed, as we learn from the inscription on the tower at the gasworks, by Prior Patrick Hepburn, who succeeded his uncle in 1522.
The church of St. Mary on the Crag,38 outwith the priory wall, maintained a position independent of the cathedral. The provost’s39 lodging stood on the south side of the church. A very small and completely ruinous fragment of the north wall of this building remains, with a broad doorway its sole architectural feature. An elevation of this door, shewing a trigonal head, is given in the margin, with a section of its jamb, also a section of the jambs of the two doors in St. Leonard’s Church.
The establishment of the Black Friars in St. Andrews was restored in 1516, largely through the instrumentality of prior John Hepburn.40 The art of the ruined north transept – all that now remains of the church then erected – is not of a high order, and it is not difficult to recognise, especially in the panels carved with the prior’s arms, the hand of the builder of the upper part of the priory wall, and the additions to St. Leonard’s Church.
The wholesale destruction of church property in St. Andrews, and within comparatively recent times, is a matter for the most profound regret. John Morow’s work may only be seen in the ruins of the earlier part of St. Leonard’s Church, and the armorial panel in the building immediately to the west; in the two panels of the New Inns; the archway at the east gable of the cathedral, and probably the lower part of the priory wall, which was completed according to his design; and perhaps in the wall of the provost’s lodging, at the Church of St. Mary on the Crag. But the evidence furnished by the work at St. Andrews has a special value. If the date – 1512 – which I have assigned to the additions to St. Leonard’s Church is correct, the John Morow was not in St. Andrews at that time, and the buildings were in the hands of another, who was greatly his inferior in skill. It is apparent, from peculiar features of the designs, that he had considerable sympathy with the work executed for Bishop Kennedy. The full importance of this can only be appreciated when it has been shewn that his sympathy for the work of the middle of the fifteenth century at Melrose Abbey was still more marked.
Melrose Abbey. – Melrose Abbey fills a place in the minds of Scotsmen not wholly due to the romantic sentiment of Scott. Whilst it is unpretentious in size, and lacking in dignity in general outline, yet the fineness of the workmanship, and the beauty and delicacy of the detail of mouldings and sculpture leave an impression not readily effaced. No reliable history of the Abbey has been written. As the history of the later additions is closely bound up with that of the early structure, my present purpose requires that a brief sketch should now be given.
The abbey was founded by David I. about 1136. Nothing remains of the twelfth-century building, however, save two detached fragments of capitals. There is no evidence now in the stones to shew that any building was erected during the thirteenth century.41 The church was destroyed in 1322 by the English, during the campaign of Edward II. A new structure was soon after projected, and towards this the dying Bruce generously contributed. The new works must have been of considerable extent, since David II. granted a payment towards the building near the end of his reign. The abbey was again totally destroyed by the English in 1385. Moved by some touch of remorse, we may suppose, Richard II. granted the abbot compensation in 1389,42 and it is from this date that the history of the existing building begins. The lower parts of the walls at the east end,43 in the presbytery, with its north and south aisles, and the eastern aisles of the north and south transepts, were erected at the end of the fourteenth century. The chief characteristic of this work, apart from the general beauty of the design, is the extreme delicacy and complexity of the mouldings, a feature which is also characteristic of the work of the same period in such structures as the west front of St. Andrews Cathedral, and the Choir, and west front of Elgin Cathedral.44
It is almost unnecessary to state that the architects who succeeded each other in the designing of our mediaeval churches were not bound by a plan determined upon from the beginning. The evidence tends rather to prove that there was a constant readiness to realize new ideas. But a study of Melrose Abbey, and of contemporary work, encourages me to believe that the designer of the Presbytery at the east end prepared the plan of a ritual choir on the west side of the crossing at the tower, and that his successor, in the early part of the fifteenth century, adopted this arrangement, which is unique in Scotland. This choir is of three bays. The stone Rood Screen at the west end and the stone screens at the aisles are built with and form a part of the piers. The great arches and probably the lower part of the tower, the west wall and gable of the north transept, and the west wall, and possibly the gable of the south transept were erected with the choir. Two statues are preserved on the west wall of the north transept, directly opposite to the two eastern chapels. St. Peter is on the north, next to the gable, with St. Paul to the south. The chapels were evidently dedicated to those saints. The Conventual buildings, which were on the north, have been entirely destroyed.45 In the two walls of the church, however, the arcading of the cloister may still be seen. The most beautiful portion of this work is shewn in the sketch in the margin. It bears a strong resemblance to the upper part of the panel in the tower of St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews, illustrated on page 342. The choir was used for service so late as 1760. Immediately before this date the present hideous ruble piers were erected in front of the original piers, in order to support a new plain barrel vault and stone roof.46 Whilst all the rest of the stonework of the original vault was destroyed, it is fortunate that the three carved bosses were preserved. The boss which probably occupied the centre division is carved with the head of Christ, after the traditional portrait.47 The others are, in my opinion, portraits of James I. and his queen, Joan Beaufort.48 Both are represented with royal crowns on their head, and James is shewn with a very slight moustache.49 James I. returned to Scotland on the 9th April, 1424,50 and was murdered in 1436.51 The abbot during this period was John Fogo, the king’s confessor.52 And, although the lands of Ettrick were still in the hands of the Douglas family, it is interesting to note that in 1434 the king had the right of pasture.53 But further and most interesting evidence of the date is supplied by the quaint gargoyle, or water-spout, on the south wall head, which is carved in the likeness of a pig playing the bagpipes. This has direct reference, I believe, to the Highlanders who rose in rebellion in 1431. The artist, with his lowland countrymen, doubtless felt the pinch of the extraordinary tax which was then raised “for the resistance of the king’s rebellers of the north.”54 There is an intensity in the contempt expressed in this work with the chisel which was not approached by the poet Dunbar with his pen, when he found a similar theme at the end of the fifteenth century for the concluding stanzas of his poem – The Dance of the Sevin Deidly Synnis.*
The nave of the abbey has been entirely destroyed. Some time before the year 1449 the outer wall of the south aisle of the choir and nave was removed and a row of chapels added.55
Andrew Hunter was abbot from 1449 to 1459.56 He was Confessor to James II., Rothesay Herald,57 and Lord High Treasurer, and was frequently employed abroad on State affairs.58 The most important work undertaken during his term59 was the alteration and completion of the south transept. The present condition of the west wall shews that it was rebuilt to a considerable extent, the upper portions of those parts which were retained near the tower being altered. The present beautiful south gable was erected, and the building covered in with a richly-moulded and carved stone vault. Only one bay and a half of this vault has been preserved, but, by singular good fortune, the boss which determines the date of the work remains on the edge of the fracture. It is carved as a shield, bearing the arms of Abbot Hunter and his initials, A. H. The boss in the centre of the perfect bay, next to the gable, is a beautiful design. It is carved as a floral wreath, with a deep recess or sinking in the centre. The dark shadow which is thus created gives wonderful relief to the exquisite sculpture of a young woman’s head.60 The hair falls in two broad straight masses, and is bound across the forehead by a narrow fillet bearing a star in the centre. This is, I believe, a portrait of Mary, daughter of the Duke of Gueldres, and queen of James II., who died in 1463.61 It remains almost perfect to the present day.62 The general effect of the design is somewhat marred, I think, by the great mass of masonry above the window.63 But the many statues with which this part was adorned may have supplied what is now wanting in sparkling lights and strong shadows. The statues are said to have represented Christ and His twelve Apostles.64 It is important to note that, as in the panel at St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews, each of the principal cusps of the main lights of the window sill, has been almost entirely destroyed, but the fragments preserved at the ends suffice to shew that the tracery was of a simple character. It was evidently divided into sections, by buttresses, supported by the figures of small angels carved across the face of the delicately-moulded and enriched cornice. The angels bear scrolls or musical instruments. The sketch in the margin will serve to shew that the design resembles the design of the parapet of the Rood Screen in Glasgow Cathedral, illustrated opposite page 90, supra. The figures in the panel at St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews. The fifth chapel from the transept, on the south side of the nave, was also built for Abbot Hunter. His arms are carved on the buttress on the exterior. The beautiful window closely resembles the window in the transept. The vault in the interior is richly moulded and carved. The centre boss is somewhat decayed, but I believe the figure represented is that of St. Michael, and it was probably to this Saint that the chapel was dedicated.65 The boss on the east side is a copy of the one in the transept, carved with the head of Queen Mary; and that on the north bears Abbot Hunter’s arms. It is probable that the south aisle of the choir was vaulted at this time also.66 The bosses, with one exception, are carved with foliage, the most frequent design being a double five-petalled rose.67 The boss on the north side of the western division is carved as a shield bearing three fleurs-de-lis – the arms of France. The tower and the three great pinnacles with their flying buttresses, on the south side of the choir, complete the work of this period. I illustrate the beautiful although weather-worn statue of Madonna which stands in the niche of the western pinnacle.68 Mary holds a bunch of roses in her right hand. The object which the infant Jesus carries cannot be clearly distinguished, but I believe it is the small model of a church. The niche in the centre pinnacle contains the statue of St. Andrew. But the statue was carved many years before this niche was prepared for it, and it is still too short, although it stands on a pedestal specially introduced to give an appearance of height. This will be apparent from the sketch in the margin. As the statues of SS.** Peter, Paul, and Andrew are alike in size and in character of workmanship there can be no doubt that the statue of St. Andrew was removed from its original place on the north part of the west wall of the south transept, where it stood directly opposite to the eastern chapel dedicated to that Saint. The date when the pinnacles and buttresses were built is determined by the carving on the shield at the base of the niche of the eastern pinnacle. It bears the arms of Abbot Hunter. The niche is now empty, but I have no doubt that the statue of St. John was placed here, when it was removed from the south part of the west wall of the south transept, and from before the eastern chapel of St. John the Evangelist. St. John was the Patron Saint of the Masons of Scotland. The carving on the shield at the base of the niche of the eastern pinnacle becomes now peculiarly significant. The shield bears, in addition to Abbot Hunter’s arms, a rose in chief, and a mason’s mallet or mell in base. This is, I believe, the earliest illustration in Scotland of the symbol of the Master Mason. The rebus on the name Melrose is one which would most naturally occur to a mason. Then John Morow’s inscription, with its prayer to “Sweet S. John,” is placed in the wall exactly opposite the centre of the chapel of St. John. This arrangement of eastern chapels dedicated to SS. Peter, Paul, Andrew, and John the Evangelist on the south.69
There are many elements present in this work of the middle of the fifteenth century at Melrose, which call to mind the work at St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews. And the sympathetic bond would be stronger, doubtless, had the college buildings been properly preserved. In Melrose the work remains as one of the most beautiful examples of architectural art in Scotland. The carvings of figures and foliage with which it is so richly adorned have been rarely excelled. But it is now of the greatest importance to mark the influence which this work exerted over the mind of John Morow when he was called to erect the later additions. As the abbey was doubtless completed about 1460, these additions will be more properly described as reconstructions. The exterior of the present south transept doorway is, I believe, the first example of John Morow’s work in Scotland. The jointing shews that the stones were inserted after the wall was built. The cornice breaks through the string course at the window sill. That the work was difficult is made apparent in the outer niches above the arch, where the joints are in the centres of the panels, and the corbels and statues are placed, in a peculiar fashion, close to one side. The headless statues in these niches are – beginning on the west side – 1st, St. Andrew; 2nd, St. Peter; 3rd, a kneeling figure with no symbol; 4th, again a kneeling figure; 5th, St. Paul; and 6th, a figure holding a book in the right hand and a long staff in the left. The small half-length figure in the centre, carved in the cornice, is St. John, bearing a scroll with the inscription – ECCE FILIUS DEI. The head is that of an old man, with a flowing beard. It was executed, I believe, by one having considerable skill as a worker in metal. It is difficult to imagine that the architect of the gable, the chief decoration of whose design was the group of thirteen statues, would have doubled the representation of the Apostles. I give a scale drawing of the mouldings of the door jamb in the margin. These are arranged in three distinct orders, an arrangement which has not been observed in any of the earlier works described. The mouldings of the outer order were still designed on the chamfer, with a deep hollow in the centre between the large beads, and in this respect they resemble the mouldings of the principal doorway of the chapel of St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews, the first illustration of this article. This design was abandoned, however, and greater variety of light and shade, with greater appearance of strength was given by placing a large bead in the centre. This characteristic will be noticed in the previous illustrations of the later works at St. Andrews. And it will be observed in the illustration [two up], which gives a section of the beautiful mouldings of the Rood Screen Arch in Glasgow Cathedral, arranged, like the door at Melrose, in three distinct orders.70 But the Melrose door and the Glasgow screen have many features in common. Chief amongst these may be noted the absence of any capitals at the springing of the arches, and the great beauty of the base mouldings, which follow round the many convolutions of the jambs. The character of these base mouldings may be traced to the influence of such works as Bishop Kennedy’s monument at St. Andrews. It cannot be derived from the base mouldings of the doorway to the chapel of St. Salvator’s College. Reference must be made to one other detail. The arms of Scotland are carved on a shield under the figure of St. John, in the triangular space above the point of the arch. The shield is supported by two unicorns. At present, the earliest known illustration of the unicorn as a supporter of the arms of Scotland is said to be on a gold coin of James III., and issued about the year 1483.71 But an earlier example will, I believe, be found high up on the west wall of the tower of the Royal Castle of Newark, in Ettrick, built in 1473.72 The Melrose arms have this peculiarity, however, that the lion on the shield is facing the wrong way, i.e., it is counter-rampant. It is unlikely that this mistake would have occurred with one who had on many previous occasions carved these arms. It might happen with one who was carving them for the first time. St. John’s Chapel was also altered. New windows were inserted in the east and south walls, and these will always be prized for the exquisitely carved figures of musicians supporting the hood-mouldings. A beautiful piscina was placed in the interior of the south wall. There is a projecting corbel on the east side, designed on the top as if to carry two small circular columns. The corbel now supports a statue. It is a female figure, draped in mediaeval costume, and with the hair bound by a narrow fillet. I believe it is intended to represent Mary, the queen of James II. The proportions of the figure and the expression of the face are so unnatural, however, that it is impossible to suppose that it was carved at this time. It bears the character of the work executed during the reign of James V.
There is no evidence that any further work was carried out at Melrose Abbey until the beginning of the sixteenth century. The marriage of James IV. To Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII. of England, on the 8th August, 1503,73 created the greatest possible enthusiasm throughout Scotland. Dunbar, the poet of the Court, gave sweetest voice to the common prayer in his poem, “The Thrissil and the Rois”:-
“O blissit be the hour
That thow wes chosin to be our principall!
Welcome to be our princes of honour,
Our perle, our plesans, and our paramour,
Our peax, our play, our plane felicite,
Chryst thé conserf frome all aduersite!”
This happy event brought to John Morow the greatest opportunity of his life. The lands of Ettrick were granted to Queen Margaret on 1st June, 1503,74 and I have no doubt it was in that year that the reconstruction of the east end of the abbey was begun. The late fourteenth century presbytery, with its side aisles, was taken down to the level of the window sills, and a new structure was erected according to a new design. As a compliment to the young queen, and perhaps not without the desire to rival with stone what Dunbar had done with the pen, John Morow produced a design in imitation of the phase of perpendicular Gothic them practised in England.75
The great east window, with its long mullions rising in unbroken lines to the limit of the arch, is in perfect harmony with that stage in the development of Gothic art which preceded the square-lintelled and many-mullioned windows of the Jacobean period. The proportions of the wast gable are exquisite, and the balance between the voids and solids is more perfect than in the gable of the south transept, and yet all the details of this work, even to the tiny grotesque creatures which squat or climb on the sloping weatherings of the buttresses, betray the closest sympathy with the work of the middle of the fifteenth century. In the upper part of the gable, above the window, the details of the south transept gable are reproduced. But what a difference there is in the subject chosen for the group of statues! In the south transept we had Christ and His Apostles. Here, on the east gable of a great church, we have the glorification of Margaret and James IV.76 The photographic illustration will shew the design. The centre niche holds a double throne. Margaret sits on the right hand, crowned, and in royal robes. James sits on the left, crowned, and in royal robes, his right hand raised to hold the sceptre, whilst his left hand grasps a globe. The king is represented with long flowing hair and beard.77 Angels are carved in the two niches on each side of the centre. They are represented as kneeling on clouds, and they wave censers aloft. Only one other figure remains – the beautiful statue of a mitred ecclesiastic.
In order to complete the apparent transformation of the east end of the abbey, the outer face of the east wall of the transepts, at the level of the clearstory, was taken down, and four new perpendicular windows were inserted. The junction of the old with the new work is apparent, and it is important to notice that the old window in each transept which was close to the tower was retained, probably because it would be to a large extent concealed by the pinnacles and flying buttresses.78 The new windows were the same length as the old, but were placed nine inches higher in the wall. But the true Scots character of all this work may easily be recognised. It is most apparent in the north window of the presbytery, which is designed with curvilinear tracery, shewing no evidence of the influence of perpendicular work.
Only one bay of the beautiful vaulted roof of the presbytery remains. It is an intricate design of moulded ribs and carved bosses, the peculiar feature being the introduction of an octagon with eight bosses surrounding the one in the centre.79 God the Father, supporting Christ on His cross, is the subject carved on the centre boss. The octagon is devoted to full-length figures of the apostles. St. Peter is on the south side, St. Paul on the north, St. Andrew on the west, and St. John on the east. These apostles are shewn with their symbols – a key, sword, cross, and scroll and eagle’s pinion. The other four figures in the octagon have each a long staff in the right hand and a symbol in the left, which I have found it impossible to decipher. There are many other carvings. One of considerable interest is the small half-length figure bearing a scroll, carved above the north clearstory window. It is a copy of the St. John on the south transept door. But the boss which possesses the greatest historical interest is the one which is still preserved on the edge of the broken vault. It is carved as a shield supported by two unicorns. The shield bears Queen Margaret’s arms.80
The carvings in this vault rank, in my opinion, amongst the most beautiful examples of the sculptor’s art which we possess in Scotland.81 The figures are all in low relief, and the outlines fall so softly into the substance of the background that the impression is deepened that the artist was a skilful worker in metal. I feel it be to a great misfortune that I cannot carry conviction to the reader’s mind on this point. But the interest of the following quotation from Laing’s Catalogue of Seals will be apparent:- “James IV., a most beautifully-executed small seal. The original, of silver, in the possession of Edward Hawkins, Esq., of the British Museum; it is probably of French workmanship. The King crowned, and in royal robes, sits on a throne, holding in his right hand a sceptre, and in his left a globe and cross.”82 This is an exact description of the statue of James IV. in the apex of the east gable. Was the silver seal engraved by John Morow? I cannot say, as it is not now in the British Museum, and its present place is unknown.
The work of this period was not entirely confined to the east end of the Abbey. The chapels on the south side of the choir and nave were each adorned with a new piscina resembling that in St. John’s Chapel. The stones were inserted in the old walls, and the period when they were carved is determined by the presence of the letters V. T. on a shield, as illustrated in the margin. This shield was carved on the piscina in the sixth chapel from the south Transept. The letters are the initials of William Turnbull, who was abbot of Melrose from about 1504 to about 1510.83
The last work in stone which it is necessary to describe is the remarkable panel at the west end of the south wall of the Abbey carved with the Royal arms. The photographic illustration will give some conception of the striking character of this work. The unicorns are almost entirely relieved from the surface. The ribbon at the top has the motto IN DEFENS, and J. 4 appears in the background. The letters of the inscription – ANNO DNI 1505 – resemble those on the tomb of Dervorgilla in Sweetheart Abbey, illustrated. The lower shield is worn smooth, but I have no doubt it bore the arms of Queen Margaret. A mell and a rose are carved on either side of this shield.
There is no evidence in the ruins that any later additions were made to the Abbey. The building was destroyed by the English soldiers of Henry VIII. in 1545.84
P. MACGREGOR CHALMERS.”