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Holy Rood Church, Stirling


Another important historical building standing in Stirling’s old town is the Church of the Holy Rood. Its name has the same derivative as Holyrood in Edinburgh: Rood means cross, and in this case derives from an altar founded by Robert II in the late 14th century.

There has been a church on this site from the 12th century established during the reign of king David, although this burned down in 1405 during a great fire. The present church was constructed in the 15th century and has a long and colourful history.

Mary Queen of Scots worshipped here and on the 29th July 1567 her son James was crowned James VI of Scotland. This makes the church a rarity as it is only one of two surviving churches that have held a coronation in Britain, the other being Westminster Abbey. The coronation was a rushed affair with John Knox in attendance, and was chosen as a protestant church that was close to the safety of Stirling Castle.

The old churchyard is full of tradesmen’s graves dating from the early 18th century. These are decorated with skulls and skull and crossbones as was traditional at the time. Also in the churchyard is an unusual pyramid tomb known as the Star Pyramid or Salem Rock, in which – according to tradition – a local eccentric was entombed. The pyramid was dreamed up by a local Victorian entrepreneur William Drummond and finished in 1863. It is a memorial to all those who have suffered religious martyrdom for civil and religious liberty. The story about the entombed eccentric may have grown from the fact that there is a bible bricked into the structure.

The church once held two congregations after ministers fell out over worship, which led to a wall being built within the church in the 17th century to allow two forms of service. The reverend James Guthrie a covenanter, who was minister at the church at the time, was hanged in Edinburgh in 1661 for his covenanter beliefs. The wall was only removed in 1936.

The Ghost
It has been suggested that a ghost known as the Pink Lady who is usually associated with Stirling Castle, has been seen near Holy Rood Church, though more commonly between the castle and church at Ladies Rock.


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