Excavations at St Ethernan’s Monastery, Isle of May, Fife, 1992-7

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This five-year campaign of excavations on the monastic site on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth produced evidence of occupation by Christian communities from at least the 7th century AD and has revealed some of the earliest ecclesiastical buildings found to date in south-east Scotland. An Early Christian cemetery was discovered with origins in the 5th or 6th centuries AD, along with three phases of a church built in stone during the 10th to 12th centuries.

The excavations also revealed the largely complete conventual plan of the later priory founded in the 1140s. Evidence was found of destruction and decay in the early 14th century, at which time the historical evidence indicates abandonment in favour of a new convent at Pittenweem. Even though the priory was derelict, there is evidence that the site continued to be visited by pilgrims to the shrine of the saint, later known as St Adrian. The monastery was secularized as a laird’s house after the Reformation.