The History of Leith

November 3, 2006

Melrose Abbey and the mystery of Robert the Bruce’s heart

The 1996 summer archeological excavations of the Chapter House floor of Melrose Abbey undertaken by Historic Scotland were designed to increase knowledge of this important medieval building.

The team from Historic Scotland investigated the lead container said to contain King Robert the Bruce’s heart which had been removed from beneath the Chapter House floor.

Under laboratory conditions a small hole was drilled into the casket and the interior investigated by a fibre-optic cable. This larger casket was then carefully opened: inside was another small conical lead casket, and an engraved copper plaque inscribed;

“The enclosed leaden casket containing a heart was found beneath Chapter House floor, March 1921, by His Majesty’s Office of Works”
The smaller conical casket is about 10 inches high and 4 inches in diameter at the base tapering to a flat top about one and a half inches in diameter. Despite being pitted with age it was in remarkably good condition.

Richard Welander, one of the investigating team from Historic Scotland, said that although it was not possible to prove absolutely that it is Bruce’s heart, “We can say that it is reasonable to assume that it is”. There are no records of anyone else’s heart being buried at Melrose.

The casket containing the heart was not opened, and remained in Edinburgh until it was buried again during a private ceremony at Melrose Abbey on 22 June 1998. On the 24th June, coinciding with the anniversary of the victory of Bruce’s army over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Scottish Secretary of State, Donald Dewar, unveiled a plinth over the place in the abbey grounds where the heart is now buried.

This article is included on a website dedicated to Leith because two of the knights who escorted the heart were Logans from Leith

For more go to the link on the rhs

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