South Scotland

Historic statues to go back on show at Melrose Abbey

Statues Image copyright Historic Environment Scotland
Image caption The statues have been in storage since the early 1980s due to concerns over their condition

A set of 15th Century statues which has been in storage for more than 30 years is set to return to display.

The four figures, of St Peter, St Paul, St Andrew and Mary, were removed from Melrose Abbey in the early 1980s.

The action was taken due to fears that the carved sandstone was vulnerable to further weathering and damage.

Restoration work has been carried out by expert conservators and they are now ready to go back on display at the abbey from Saturday.

The statues date to the early 15th Century and the rebuilding of Melrose Abbey after it was destroyed by the armies of Richard II in 1385.

Exhibited alongside the statues will be the collection of artefacts discovered during archaeological excavation at Melrose Abbey in the early 20th Century, which have also undergone recent conservation work.

The collection - including the handle and blade from a pair of medieval scissors, a fragment of the bone frame from a pair of 14th Century spectacles and post-Reformation communion tokens - gives a "fascinating glimpse" of day-to-day life at the abbey in years gone by.

Image copyright Historic Environment Scotland
Image caption The figures are going back on display at Melrose Abbey

Jill van Millingen, collections manager at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which runs the abbey, said: "It's fantastic to see these special artefacts restored and back in their rightful home at Melrose Abbey.

"The niche statues, which survived damage after they were defaced following the Reformation, give us a unique insight into this turbulent period of Scottish history.

"Meanwhile this rich collection of everyday items from medieval times brings the history of Melrose Abbey to life, helping us understand what daily life would have been like for the monks who lived here."

David I founded Melrose Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in Scotland, in 1136.

However, being so close to the border placed it on the front line of conflict with England during the later Middle Ages.

Rebuilding began in the late 1380s and it remained in use as an abbey until the Protestant Reformation of 1560.

While only a very small part of the first abbey church survives, Melrose Abbey is still considered one of the best examples of medieval church architecture anywhere in the British Isles.

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