Stool of Repentance

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Stool of Repentance and branks, Holy Trinity Church, St. Andrews

The Stool of Repentance in Presbyterian polity, mostly in Scotland, was an elevated seat in a church used for the public penance of persons who had offended against the morality of the time, often through fornication and adultery. At the end of the service the offender usually had to stand upon the stool to receive the rebuke of the minister.

The humiliation associated with sitting on the stool and publicly repenting one's sins often drove people to suicide, or women to conceal their pregnancy and even to kill their child, rather than face the congregation and Kirk Session.[1]

An alternative to, or commutation of, the Stool of Repentance was payment of buttock mail.[2]

A harp tune commemorates the tradition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ G.M. Trevelyan, 'English Social History', 1942 pp454 - 455 Pelican Books
  2. ^ Smith, Sydney; et al. (1804). The Edinburgh review: or critical journal, Volume 3. A. Constable. p. 206.