Nestled in the picturesque village of New Abbey in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, lies the enchanting ruins of the Abbey of Dulce Cor, often referred to as the Sweetheart Abbey. This remarkable Cistercian monastery, established in 1275, is steeped in history and carries with it a tale of true love and devotion that has captivated the hearts of visitors for centuries.
Lady Dervorguilla, the founder of the abbey, was a remarkable woman who had a profound love for her husband, John Balliol. After Lord John Balliol’s passing in 1268, Lady Devorguilla of Galloway could not bear to part with her beloved. In an extraordinary act of love, she preserved his embalmed heart in a precious ivory casket and carried it with her wherever she went. This beautiful story of unwavering affection is the inspiration behind the abbey’s name.
The magnificent church at the heart of the abbey was designed in the shape of a cross, with distinct sections serving different purposes. At the east end of the church lies the presbytery, while the west and south sections feature intimate side-chapels. The high altar, which takes centre stage, is flanked by the monks’ choir, where they would have gathered to sing and pray.
The central crossing of the church is dominated by the prominent bell tower, which can be seen from a distance, acting as a beacon for travellers and pilgrims alike. Although the church’s design adheres to the Cistercian principles of austerity, it is punctuated by delicate flourishes and exquisite details that are sure to catch the eye of any visitor.
One such detail is the intricate stone tracery found in the windows of the presbytery. Among the beautifully carved patterns, you will discover a stone figure of Lady Devorguilla tenderly cradling her late husband’s embalmed heart, a poignant reminder of the love story that inspired the abbey’s name.
When visiting the Abbey of Dulce Cor, you will find the site entrance situated just a short 90-metre stroll from the car park. The level tarmac road provides easy access for all visitors, ensuring that the beauty and wonder of this historical treasure can be enjoyed by everyone.
Whether you are a history enthusiast, a romantic at heart, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of ancient architecture, the Abbey of Dulce Cor has something to offer everyone. Come, wander among the ruins, and let the story of Lady Dervorguilla and her enduring love for her husband transport you back to a time when devotion knew no bounds.
Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Dumfries, DG2 8BU
Telephone: 01387 850 397
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