Dunfermline Abbey Choir Radar Surveying, stage IV

Funded by The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The 19th century Benedictine Abbey of Dunfermline in Fife (begun in 1818), sits atop the ruins of the royal mausoleum of the 11th to 14th centuries. Our research group have been invited by the Dunfermline Abbey Church Kirk Session to search for evidence of the overbuilt monastic choir of the medieval abbey and its many royal burials and altars. These national spiritual treasures and their settings had been lost at the Reformation of 1560 and through subsequent centuries of re-use and neglect.

Between 2016-2019 we conducted three rounds of non-invasive ground-penetrating radar [GPR] through the foundations and surrounding ground of the modern Abbey Church of Dunfermline that have revealed significant information about the lost architecture and liturgical development of this important pilgrimage church and royal burial ground (the survey must be non-invasive under the terms of Property-in-care access). The preliminary data results and their possible interpretation after integration with historical sources have been published in open-access format through and via Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE database.

This project will continue this research with a fourth round of GPR taking advantage of the temporary clearance of pews and other fittings from previously unexposed areas of the Abbey Church interior. We will focus on the newly cleared north-transept (atop the medieval Lady Chapel), areas around the high altar and crossing and the south aisle (atop a mirror transept chapel which our 2019 survey identified for the first time), again in search of evidence for burials and fittings to link to or reassess the patchy record evidence.

Total award value £4,478.00

People (1)


Dr Michael Penman

Dr Michael Penman

Senior Lecturer, History

Outputs (2)


Project Report

Penman M & Utsi E (2023) In Search of the Scottish Royal Mausoleum at the Benedictine Abbey of Dunfermline, Fife: Medieval Liturgy, Antiquarianism, and a Ground-Penetrating Radar Pilot Survey, 2016-22 [Dunfermline Abbey Choir GPR project report, 2nd edition]. Dunfermline Abbey Church and Kirk Session; Historic Environment Scotland; Fife Council; Dunfermline Heritage Partnership; GWS BArrow Award; Strathmartine Trust; Royal Society of Edinburgh; Hunter Archaeological Trust; Faculty of Arts & Humanities, University of Stirling.; University of Stirling Research respository; Historic Environment Scotland CANMORE database; Dunfermline Abbey Church website;