Church of the Holy Rude

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A view from Stirling Castle.
A view from Stirling Castle.
A view from the churchyard.

The Church of the Holy Rude is the medieval parish church of Stirling, Scotland. The church was founded in 1129 during the reign of David I, but earliest part of the present church dates from the 15th century. As such it is the second oldest building in Stirling after Stirling Castle, parts of which date from the later 14th century. The chancel and tower were added in the 16th century.

Stirling Castle has long been a favoured residence of the Scottish monarchs, and was developed as a Renaissance palace during the reigns of the later Stewart Kings. The Church of the Holy Rude, adjacent to the castle, became similarly associated with the monarchy, hosting royal baptisms and coronations. It is one of three churches still in use in Britain that have been the sites of coronations.[1][a]

History[edit]

A view from Stirling Old Town Jail.
A view from the roof of Stirling Old Town Jail
Interior

The church was founded in 1129 but nothing of this early structure now remains due to a fire in 1405.

Construction on the new nave was underway by 1414, and based on the evidence of carved heraldry the vault of the nave was completed between 1440 and 1480. Work on the chancel did not commence until 1507 and completed around 1530 which was when the west tower was also extended to its current height. King James VI was crowned King of Scots in the church on 29 July 1567. Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney performed the ceremony, and John Knox preached a sermon.

In the Siege of Stirling Castle in 1651 by General Monk, during the English Civil War, the church and churchyard suffered damage from musket shots, which is still visible.[2]

Soon after, the controversial preacher James Erskine caused a schism in the congregation and a dividing wall was built which stood until 1936.

In 1940 the church was restored and the fine oak beam roof was re-exposed.

Stained Glass[edit]

West window, Holy Rude Church, Stirling

The church contains many fine stained glass windows, mainly from the late 19th century, including examples by Ballantine & Co., Adam & Small, and Cottier & Co.

Graveyard[edit]

Unique body snatching headstone, Stirling, 1823

The church has a historic churchyard lying primarily to the west and north-west of the church. Stones date from the 16th century.

The churchyard was extended in 1851, creating the fascinating Valley Cemetery to the north, divided from the old cemetery by only a path. This contains a series of statues by Alexander Handyside Ritchie to figures of the Reformation.

The old graveyard contains a unique stone with a carved depiction of body snatching, marking the theft of Mary Stevenson (1767-1822) by James McNab, the local gravedigger who had buried her two days earlier, on 16 November 1822, aided by a friend, Daniel Mitchell. The body was passed to John Forrest, for dissection. The two men were caught, but released due to legal technicalities and a riot ensued. Mary's body was reburied and the stone carved to mark the strange event.

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Coordinates: 56°07′15″N 3°56′40″W / 56.120882°N 3.944521°W / 56.120882; -3.944521