Forteviot Parish Church

Forteviot Church, 1

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1778, possibly on the site of the medieval church, with further work in 1830 and 1867.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Andrew(1)

The location of one of the most important royal centres of early ninth-century Pictland and with a ritual landscape that included the Dupplin Cross and the remarkable carved arch-head that is believed to have come from a church building, Forteviot is a site of ancient religious significance.(2)  Specific reference to a church, however, is lacking until 1164 when King Malcolm IV granted the church of Forteviot to his chaplain, Richard of Stirling.(3)  Richard appears still to have been in possession between 1173 and 1177 when King William granted the church to the canons of Cambuskenneth in lieu of a teind of the king’s profits from justice in Stirlingshire and the area around Falkirk, the grant to take effect on Richard’s death.(4)  At some date before 1199 the king also provided four acres of land as a toft and croft for a manse for the parish priest.(5)  In a papal confirmation of 1207, the teind of the profits of royal justice from Stirlingshire and Callendar was included but the church of Forteviot was not, suggesting that King William’s grant had been either ineffective or temporary.

The next reference to the church is a note of its dedication on an unspecified date in 1241 by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews.(6)  When the church is next recorded, in 1274-5 in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, its status as an independent parsonage is confirmed; the connection with Cambuskenneth had not been established. As the church of ‘Fercemoth’ and ‘Ferthevihot’, the rector’s taxation was assessed at 3 merks for a full year.(7)  It remained independent for a further two hundred years.

In 1473, Pope Sixtus IV united the church to the archiepiscopal mensa of the new metropolitan see of St Andrews.(8)  As with the earlier attempted annexation to Cambuskenneth, this union seems likewise to have been ineffective.  A fresh supplication for the annexation from Archbishop William Scheves and confirmation by Pope Innocent VIII were equally ineffective.(9)

Eventually in 1495 the parson of the church consented to its erection into a prebend of the collegiate church of St Salvator at St Andrews.  The pensionary vicarage, with stipend of 20 merks, through which the cure of souls had been served for the non-resident parson was increased into a perpetual vicarage with the teinds of wool, flax, lambs, calves, cheese, oblations, mortuary payments and other dues accruing to it.  William Ireland was instituted as first perpetual vicar.(10)  This arrangement remained in force at the Reformation, when the parsonage held by Mr John Thornton was valued at £200 and the vicarage was set for 40 merks.(11)


1. J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1910), 214.

2. N Aitchison, Forteviot: A Pictish and Scottish Royal Centre (Stroud, 2006), chapters 4-9.

3. Regesta Regum Scottorum, i, The Acts of Malcolm IV, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1960), no.257.

4. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.161 [hereafter RRS, ii]; Registrum Monasterii S Marie de Cambuskenneth (Grampian Club, 1872), nos 99, 100 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Registrum].

5.RRS, ii, no.260.

6. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 521 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

7. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 37, 62.

8. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J Twemlow (London, 1955), 17.

9. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiv, 1484-1492, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1960), 289-290.

10. Calendar of the Laing Charters AD 854-1837, ed J Anderson (Edinburgh, 1899), no.224.

11. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 317, 330.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Cambuskenneth by William I 1171x78, grant appears to have been ineffective as the church appears as a parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll. 1473-74 it was united to the archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews, and again in 1487. This also appears to have been ineffective, and the church finally becomes a prebend of St Salvators  college in 1495, with the existing vicarage pensionary erected in perpetual vicarage.(1)

Mackinlay notes that the church was dedicated to St Andrew and features in the origin legend of St Andrews.(2)

c.1164 Charter held by abbey confirming the church of Forteviot to Richard of Stirling, the king’s chaplain, with teinds and oblations.(3)

1173x77 William I granted the church to the abbey in exchange for 1/10 of the king’s pleas and profits in Stirling, Stirlingshire and Callendar. A life rent for Richard of Stirling was included.

1178x99 The king gifted 4 acres of land in Forteviot and a toft and croft for priestly buildings.(4)

1419 Rector is Nicholas Hunter, secretary and counsellor of Robert, Duke of Albany.(5)

1420-21 Litigation between William de Cowan and John de Keremor who suggest church is void as Hunter not dispensed to hold multiple benefices. By 1421 John Were described as rector but shortly after resigns his claim.(6)

1425-39 Hunter retains church (secretary of Murdoch, Duke of Albany until 1425).  His death in 1439 is followed by litigation between Andrew de Dunnovin and Hugh Kennedy (described as counsellor and kinsman of James II and canon of Augustinian church of St John of Sens) [not clear who is successful].(7)

1465 Further litigation over parsonage (value £25). James Livingstone (later bishop of Dunkeld) eventually provided.(8)

1473 Appropriated to archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews.

1487 Attempt to renew union; dispute between William Scheves and John Fresel who alleged that church belonged to him.(9)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: £100 from the fruits of the parish church paid to Gilbert Thornton by parson John Thornton, overall value £200. Vicarage valued at £26 13s 4d.(10)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £8 17s 9 /13d.(11)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(12)

Statistical Account of Scotland (anon, 1791): ‘The ancient church of Forteviot is said to have been founded by Hungus, king of the Picts’.(13)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev R. J Robertson, 1843): Mentions the ‘manse, built 20 years before’.(14) (1823)

[Neither account makes any reference to the fabric or condition of the church]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1778; altered 1867.(15)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 69.

2. Mackinlay, Scriptural Dedications,  p. 214.

3. RRS, i, no. 257.

4. RRS, ii, nos. 161 & 208. In 1207 a papal bull of Innocent III confirmed the pleas mentioned above as in the possession of the abbey, suggesting the church was no longer held by the abbey, Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 26.

5. CSSR, i, 139.

6. CSSR, i, 147, 198, 254-55, CPL, vii, 173.

7. CSSR, ii, 106-7, CSSR, iv, 600 & 623.

8. CSSR, v, no.1303, 1305 & 1310.

9. CPL, xiii, 17, CPL, xxiv , 289-90

10. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 159, 317, 328 & 330.

11. Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 15.

12. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

13. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), 121.

14. New Statistical Account of Scotland,  (1843), x, 1175.

15. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 269.


NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

Mackinlay, J.M, 1910, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of Malcolm IV (1153-65), 1960, Edinburgh.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh.

Architectural description

Forteviot is a place of the highest significance for the early royal and ecclesiastical history of Scotland.(1) Six fragmentary Early Christian carved stones have been located in the vicinity,(2) some of which are displayed in the church porch. A hand bell of possibly ninth-century date has also been found in the area now embraced by the parish.(3)

Amongst the carved stones associated with Forteviot is one of particular importance that is now in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. It is of arched shape and has at its apex a cross flanked by a lamb that appears to be a depiction of the agnus dei, together with human figures that may represent apostles. On art historical grounds this stone could date from as early as the ninth century. The arched form indicates that it derives from an architectural setting, while its Christian iconography strongly suggests that it is from an ecclesiastical building, in which case it may be a unique example of an early chancel arch or part of a church doorway.

The medieval parish had taken shape by the 1170s, when William I made an attempt to grant it to Cambuskenneth Abbey. This was evidently abortive, since the parish was still recorded as a parsonage in Bagimond.(4) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one his dedications here in 1241.(5) In 1473/4 there was an attempt to grant it to the archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews, though this was also abortive; eventually, in 1495, the parsonage was erected into a prebend of St Salvator’s College in St Andrews.

Apart from the fragments of Early Christian carved stones, the only medieval masonry in the church is an octagonal font. However, this did not originate at Forteviot, having been brought here from the abandoned church of Muckersie.

The main body of the present building, which is constructed of pink rubble with ashlar dressings, dates from 1778;(6) it measures 15.9 metres from east to west by 11.1 metres from north to south. There was some remodelling by William Stirling and the elder Andrew Heiton in 1830, and it has been suggested that the bellcote on the west gable may date from this phase of works.(7)  More extensive remodelling was carried out by David Smart in 1867, when a vestry and porch were added to the west and east ends of the south face respectively.

The original fenestration is best seen on the south side, towards the graveyard, where there is a pair of windows with block imposts and keystones towards the centre; there are also traces of blocked openings towards the ends of the elevation. There is a similar pair of windows in the west gable wall. The north side was more extensively modified in 1867, when a central two-light traceried window and a pair of quatrefoiled circlets were inserted between the vestry and porch. There are slight traces of a suppressed pair of windows that perhaps reflected those on the south side.

There is nothing that is overtly medieval in the present fabric, and its proportions do not reflect those that might be expected in a medieval church. Nevertheless, the possibility that the church of 1778 was built wholly or partly on the site of its medieval predecessor should not be ruled out, with the associated possibility that medieval fabric has been embodied within the eighteenth-century walls.


1. Leslie Alcock and Elizabeth A. Alcock, ‘Reconaissance Excavations on Early Historic Fortifications and other Royal Sites in Scotland, 1974-84: A, Excavations and other Fieldwork at Forteviot, Perthshire, 1981...’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 122, 1992, pp 215-287 at pp. 218-42.

2. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, 1903, pt 3, pp. 321-27.

3. Cormac Bourke, ‘The Hand-Bells of the Early Scottish Church’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.113, 1983, pp. 464-68 at pp. 466-7.

4. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 69.

5. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, 1922, vo. 2, p. 521.

6. Francis H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 3, 1883.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 372.



Click on any thumbnail to open the image gallery and slideshow.

  • 1. Forteviot Church, 1

  • 2. Forteviot Church, 2

  • 3. Forteviot arch, in National Museum of Scotland

  • 4. Forteviot Church, traces of earlier openings, 1

  • 5. Forteviot Churchyard, gravestone

  • 6. Forteviot Church, interior, font, from Muckersie Church