Leuchars St Athernase

Guided Tours of the church

Click here for a guided tour of the church online.

Come and discover the main features of the Early Mediaeval church. See Fife's finest example of Romanesque architecture. Find out how Leuchars got a Norman church (and a castle).

Our very knowledgable volunteers are available to provide Guided Tours. To avoid disappointment, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in advance to confirm available dates and visiting times

Outside

Walk slowly around the church, both within and outwith the boundary walls. Particularly fine views may be had from the end of Earlshall Road (directly opposite the apse) which leads to Earlshall Castle. Another good vantage point is from a little to the left of the entrance to Earlshall Road, at the junction with the main road.

St Athernase exterior

As you stroll through the churchyard, you will observe clearly the distinction between the original Norman chancel and the apse, and the Victorian Romanesque nave extension. The latter, constructed in 1857 from locally quarried sandstone, is roofed in Ballachulish slate. The solid oak doors of the main entrance porch have the black Early English style ironmongery.

Carefully examine the exterior of the chancel and apse. Notice the difference in the levels between the original and newer parts of the building, caused by the level of the graveyard having been raised. Look at the corbels and locate the line of the Norman timber roof. Study the craftsmanship of the decorative arcading and intersecting arches. The remains of similar work can be found at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The bell turret was constructed over the apse in 1745. Most people tend to agree that the contrasting style adds to the charm of the church as we see it today.

Inside

Main features are the carved stone arches decorated with chevron and damier patterns. The windows, three each in apse and chancel, are narrow with semi-circular tops. Grotesque stone heads, some of which have been restored featuring the bizarre and barbaric, depicting horses, creatures and monsters, were put there to instil fear and trembling in worshippers. They are not Christian, but belong to the Viking tradition and the mythology. Similar work is found in other places dating from around 1120 - 1150 and a little later.

Originally the walls would have been painted, white or in a bright colour, while the floor would have been decorated with red tiles.

There are three large memorial stone slabs. One on the floor near the pulpit and two others, either side of the door midway along the south wall. The first commemorates Robert Carnegie of Kinnaird, who died at Leuchars Castle in 1565.

Carnegie stone

 

 

 

 

 

Translated, it reads:
Under the stone lies the body of the worthy Sir Robert Carnegie of Kinnaird who died in the castle of Leuchars on 5th January 1565 and in the 55th year of his age. 

He was senator of the College of Justice, sometime ambassador of Mary of Guise, wife of King James V and of their daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the south wall, leftmost stone is to Sir William Bruce of Earlshall Castle. Unlike Leuchars Castle which has now completely disappeared, Earlshall still stands not far away and is a family home. Built by Sir William in 1546, the castle was completed in 1617 by his great grandson who bore the same name. Historians believe that the name is linked to Earls of Fife.

Bruce stone

 

 

 

 

The inscription reads:
Here lies an upright man and worthy to be held in remembrance of all. Sir William Bruce of Earlshall, Knight, who died 28th Jauary 1584 in the 98th year of his age. Death is the end of all.
WB Be Trew
And
Heir lyis of al Piete ane Lantern Brycht
Schir Villiam Bruce of Erlishall Knycht.

Sir William born in 1486, fought in the Battle of Flodden (1513). He started building his castle just at the beginning of the Reformation in Scotland, a long period of religious upheaval. A trusted counsellor to Mary Queen of Scots and to her son, King James VI, who became also King James I of England, Sir William would invite them to ride from Falkland Palace to enjoy hunting and feasting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dame Agnes stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the right, the stone is to Dame Agnes Lyndesay, second wife to Sir William's great grandson.

Her inscription reads:
D Agnes Lyndesay lady to William Bruce of Earlshall who in her life was charitable to the poore and profitable to that house. Dyed 1653 of her age 68 and waiteth here in hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stone above the door reads:
Vailat Gloria Mundi
This seppultur that be heir se for erlishall and his posterete.
Momentote mei.

Memento mori