The Abbey of Dulce Cor, better known as
Sweetheart Abbey (Gd: An Abaid
New Abbey Pow, was a
Cistercian monastery founded in 1275 in
what is now the town of New Abbey,
Dumfries and Galloway, 8 miles
(13 km) south of Dumfries, near to the Nith in south-west
Scotland. It was suppressed in 1624.
3 Current status
5 See also
The abbey, located on the banks of the River Pow, was founded by
Dervorguilla of Galloway, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, in
memory of her husband, Baron John de Balliol. After his death, she
kept his embalmed heart, contained in a casket of ivory and silver,
with her for the rest of her life, and it was buried alongside her
when she died. In line with this devotion to her late husband, she
named the abbey Dulce Cor (Latin for Sweet Heart). Their son, also
John, became King of Scotland, but his reign was tragic and short.
Under the first abbot, Henry, the abbey was built in deep-red, local
sandstone in the Early English style. It was founded as a daughter
house to the nearby Dundrennan Abbey; thus this novum monasterium (new
monastery) became known as the "
New Abbey Pow".
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 30 acres (120,000 m2)
and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The
abbey church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, measures 203 feet
(62 m), and the central tower rose to a height of 92 feet
Abbot of Sweetheart was a member of the First Estate and sat ex
officio in the Parliament. The
Cistercian Order—whose members were
commonly known as the White Monks because of the white cowl which they
wear over their religious habit—built many great abbeys after their
establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's
interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming
and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local
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. The Bishop of
Sweetheart’s "outstanding and notorious poverty". Archibald Douglas,
3rd Earl of Douglas (1328-1400), often referred to as Archibald the
Grim, became a major benefactor of the abbey and financed wholesale
repairs and the rebuilding of the abbey complex. The depredations
suffered by the abbey in subsequent periods, however, caused the
graves of the foundress and her husband to be lost.
The abbey continued in quiet obscurity until it was eventually
suppressed in the Scottish Reformation.
Starting in 1565, the Scottish crown placed the abbey under a series
of commendatory abbots. The last
Cistercian abbot was Gilbert Broun,
S.O.Cist. (died 1612), who continued to uphold the Catholic faith long
after the Reformation. He was charged several times with enticing to
"papistrie" from 1578 to 1605, until finally he was arrested in 1605,
in spite of the resistance of the whole countryside, and transported
to Edinburgh, where he was tried and sentenced to exile. In 1624, the
last of the monks died and the abbey buildings and land passed into
the hands of Sir Robert Spottiswoode, son of the Archbishop of St
Andrews, who assumed the title of Lord of New Abbey.
When, in 1633, King Charles I established the
Diocese of Edinburgh, he
pleaded with Spottiswoode to relinquish the lands of New Abbey, which
he wanted to grant to the new diocese. Though Spottiswoode agreed, he
was not paid for the lands, and when the royal grant to the diocese
was cancelled, the king restored the estate back to Spottiswoode in
1641. He was soon forced into exile, however, so the estate continued
in possession of the Crown.
John I de Balliol
John I de Balliol and his wife Dervorguilla of Galloway
Eric Drummond, 7th Earl of Perth
William Paterson (banker)
Looking eastwards, the impressive nave of the abbey church leading
(under the dramatic bell tower) to the chancel, with its richly carved
and traceried windows. Above the rows of pillars, the triforia can
just be seen.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New
Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill.
Although the present buildings date from the late 18th century, there
was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which
serviced the surrounding farms.
Sweetheart Abbey entrance through the much altered archway in the
abbey precincts which extended to 30 acres.
The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine
how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as
farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by
rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly
expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all
Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious
life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced
agriculture in the surrounding areas.
^ a b c "Sweetheart Abbey: A graceful ruin". Historic Scotland.
^ a b
New Abbey from the Catholic Encyclopedia
Abbot of Sweetheart, for a list of abbots and commendators
List of places in
Dumfries and Galloway
Cistercian monasteries in Scotland
Melrose filiation (from Rievaulx)
Melrose Abbey (1136)
Newbattle Abbey (1140)
Holmcultram Abbey* (1150)
Kinloss Abbey (1150)
Coupar Angus Abbey
Coupar Angus Abbey (1164)
Balmerino Abbey (1227)
Dundrennan filiation (from Rievaulx)
Dundrennan Abbey (1142)
Glenluce Abbey (1192)
Sweetheart Abbey (1273)
Mellifont filiation** (from Cîteaux)
? Soulseat Abbey*** (1148)
Saddell Abbey (1207)
Kinloss filiation**** (from Rievaulx)
Culross Abbey (1217)
Deer Abbey (1219)
Latter day foundations
* Now in England, but at the time of its foundation, part of the
Scottish kingdom of David I.
** Filiation from
Mellifont Abbey in Ireland, founded 1142.
*** If this existed, it was shortly afterwards replaced by a
**** In the line of filiation from Melrose (above).
Coordinates: 54°58′48.74″N 3°37′7.21″W / 54.9802056°N
3.6186694°W / 54.9802056