Kinfauns Parish Church

Kinfauns Church, exterior, from north

Summary description

The shell of a medieval rectangular church, to the south flank of which a laterally projecting aisle was added in 1598. Replaced by a new church a short distance to its west in 1869-70, which is itself now redundant.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

In origin, Kinfauns was a dependent chapel of Scone, apparently granted to the abbey at the time of its foundation c.1115 by King Alexander I and confirmed as such by Bishop Richard of St Andrews (1163-78).(1)  As a parochial dependency it therefore makes no appearance in records such as the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the 1270s and 1290s.  It was still listed as a chapel in Bishop Walter Traill’s 1395 confirmation of various of the abbey’s churches to it in proprios usus and in Pope Benedict XIII’s confirmation of that grant in September of that year.(2)

It appears to have achieved full parochial status shortly after 1395, for in 1419 a supplication to the pope requesting an indulgence for all those visiting the chapel of St Ninian and contributing towards its maintenance located the chapel in the parish of Kinfauns.(3)  It was described as lying within the lordship of Scone Abbey, which had presumably secured its parochial status.  A further supplication to the same purpose of securing indulgences for those visiting St Ninian’s was made the following year and again located the chapel within the parish of Kinfauns.(4)

Although there are references to a parish of Kinfauns as early as 1419, it is only in 1561 that the church is explicitly referred to as a parish church rather than a chapel in a rental of the abbey’s possessions which values it at £33 6s 8d.(5) At the Reformation, the church remained annexed to Scone, to which its revenues were appropriated.(6)  There is no reference to a vicar or curate who served the cure before 1560, but a reader appears to have been in operation soon after the Reformation.


1. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne Club, 1843), no.48 [hereafter Scone Liber].

2. Scone Liber, no.193; Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 48.

3. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds ER Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 114 [hereafter CSSR, i].

4.CSSR, i, 159.

5. Scone Liber, appendix 1, 216.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 332-3.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: First referred to as chapel of parish church of Scone in 1163x78. Still a chapel in 1395 but the church appears to have achieved parochial status by 1419, its entire revenues remaining with Scone.(1)

1395 Described as a chapel of Scone.(2)

See Scone (included in grants regarding that church as a pendicle chapel)

1395 Still described as a chapel when included in confirmation by Walter Trail, bishop of SA, of possessions of Scone in diocese of St Andrews.(3)

1419 Indulgence granted ‘since on Friday of every week, a multitude of the faithful, on account of devotion to St Ninian, flock to the chapel of St Ninian in the parish of Kinfouns… in order that the devotion of the people may be augmented, and the fabric and ornaments of the chapel fittingly preserved’. Supplication for those who visit pay towards the fabric and ornaments.(4) [location is unclear, not necessarily close to parish church]

1420 Shorter version of the same supplication, mentions ‘chapel is endowed with no possessions, whereby it can be fittingly repaired with edifices and ornaments’.(5)

1561 First described as a church rather than chapel in post-Reformation rental, £33 6s 8d.(6)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church pertains to Scone, value £33 6s 8d; reader mentioned paid £20.(7)

1598 A gabled rectangle [lateral projecting burial aisle], almost square, was constructed to the south of the medieval church. The heraldic panel over the entrance is dated 1598 and, although much eroded, probably bore the arms of Thomas Chatteris of Kinfauns.(8)

1613 (1 Sept) Visitation records that the fabric of the church is in good care but the kirk dykes require to be built according to the act of Parliament. Described as a kirk of stone. It belongs to Scone.(9)

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.(10)

1677 (5 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Perth; the minister states the church was very well upheld by the writs and that it had all the utensils necessary for holy communion.(11)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Chapman, 1793): ‘The church is an old building without any date. It was repaired in 1789 and is now a decent and comfortable place of worship’.(12)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Lachlan Maclean (researched by Patrick Stewart the school teacher), 1843): [Long section on the multi-stage part medieval parish church].(13)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1598 Gray aisle; fragments of medieval kirk.(14)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 111-112.

2. CPL, Ben, 48.

3. Scone Liber, no. 193.

4. CSSR, i, 114

5. CSSR, i, 159.

6. Scone Liber, App 1, p. 216.

7. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 332-33.

8. Spicer, ‘’Defyle not Christ’s kirk with your carrion”, 164.

9. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, pp. 62-63, NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fol. 143.

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

11. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4, fols. 325-328.

12. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xiv, 222.

13. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1843, 1221.

14. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 29, 208 & 269.


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

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4.

NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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

Ecclesiastical Records. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, 1611-87, 1837, ed. C. Baxter (Abbotsford Club), 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.

Liber ecclesie de Scon, 1843, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh.

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

Spicer A., 2000, ‘’Defyle not Christ’s kirk with your carrion”: burial and the development of burial aisles in post-Reformation Scotland’, in B. Gordon and P. Marshall The Place of the Dead and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, 149-69.

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

Architectural description

The church at Kinfauns originated as a chapel of Scone; it was confirmed to the Augustinian abbey of Scone as a pendicle of Scone parish by Bishop Richard (1163-78), but is likely to have been granted to that house around the time of its foundation, in about 1120. It was still considered to be a chapel as late as 1395, but by 1419 had evidently achieved parochial status, while continuing to be appropriated to Scone.(1)

In its final medieval state the building was an oriented rectangle with dimensions of 24 metres from east to west and 9.3 metres from north to south.(2) But it has clearly been remodelled on more than one occasion both in the course of the middle ages and following the Reformation, and all of the surviving diagnostically significant features appear to be of secondary construction.

So far as can now be seen, the two gable walls were of differing forms: the west wall was initially largely featureless, while the east wall has a chamfered intake. However, this intake is well below the location that would usually be expected, the base of the gable, which perhaps suggests that the east wall has been heightened at some stage, a possibility supported by a change in the character of the masonry in the south wall of the chancel. There may have been modifications to the fenestration at the same time: a rectangular window with broadly chamfered reveals in the south wall of the chancel is likely to be of late medieval rather than post-Reformation date, as may be a fragmentary window of related form in the south nave wall.

At some stage the building may have been extended westwards. It has already been noted that the two gable walls are of differing forms, but the main reason for suspecting there has been a westward extension is that the two nave doors are located considerably further east than would be usual. The north nave door survives in place, and has a slightly pointed arch framed by a continuous quirked roll moulding, and a lintelled rear arch.

The south nave door was lost when a south aisle was added, but its location is indicated by an ogee-headed holy water stoup, the basin of which has broken away. The lintel of its rear arch is said to have been a re-used cross-incised grave slab.(3) This may have been a stone that is still to be seen in the church; it is of coped form with roll-moulded arrises, which is decorated with a cross whose circular head overlaps those mouldings. There has also been a door in the south wall of the chancel which was evidently suppressed in favour of a later opening. Part of its broadly chamfered east jamb survives; the similar broad chamfer to the stump of the threshold could suggest a thirteenth or early fourteenth-century date.

In the north wall of the chancel area is a round-arched tomb recess, which is now considerably eroded, while raised ground levels obscure its lower parts. Nevertheless, on the combined evidence of what remains visible and of a drawing made before its condition had deteriorated,(4) it can be seen that it was of an elegant design, with jambs in the form of single shafts. The arch has mouldings composed of a triplet of filleted rolls that die against springer blocks rising vertically above the jambs. There appears to have been a decorated hood mould around the arch that was presumably cut back when the recess was concealed at some stage after the Reformation.

In this location it is likely that the tomb was also intended to serve as an Easter Sepulchre, a likelihood that may find some support in the location of a now-blocked square aumbry immediately to its east. That aumbry, which is rebated for a door frame, may have been a Sacrament House, a feature that is commonly closely associated with an Easter Sepulchre.

It is said that the church had some painted decoration, traces of which were found on the west wall after the church had been abandoned.(5) Nothing of this decoration survives.

Evidence remains of a number of post-Reformation adaptations of the medieval fabric. The most significant structural addition was the construction of a family aisle against the south flank, a little to the east of the mid-point, which was the work of John Charteris and his wife Janet Chisholm in 1598. It rose some distance above the main body of the church, with which it connected through a wide segmentally-arched opening. There is a burial vault below the floor.

Externally the chief emphasis is on the south face of the aisle, where the jambs of a central door continue up into a panel that is now blank, and that is in turn surmounted by an armorial panel with the date 1598 on its sill. On each side, overlapping both the door and the blank panel, is a rectangular window. The initials IC, in reference to John Charteris, are inscribed on the SE skewputt.

Internally the aisle is covered with a quadripartite ribbed vault with both diagonal and ridge ribs, and with a heavy pendant at the apex. Along the east and west walls are tripartite panels framed by fluted pilasters, which contain arms commemorating those buried within the aisle. 

Other post-Reformation changes to the medieval fabric for which evidence remains are to be seen in the cutting of new doors through both the east and west walls; new windows have evidently also been provided, especially in the north wall, which may previously have been blank. The last significant addition was an aisle immediately to the west of the Charteris Aisle, of which nothing now remains apart from a gap where an arch was cut to open from the church. In 1843 this was said to have been built ‘a very few years ago’.(6)

The difficulties of conducting reformed worship in a medieval building were, as was frequently the case, highlighted by the minister who provided details of his parish for the New Statistical Account. In his description of 1843 the minister commented in particular on the low walls, and on the cramped headroom in the galleries that had been erected at each end of the building.(7)  

The medieval church was abandoned for worship in 1869-70, when it was replaced by a new building a short way to its west to the designs of the younger Andrew Heiton.(8) That new church is now itself redundant.

Soon after its abandonment the old church appears to have been stripped out, with little subsequent effort made to preserve it. The exception to this is a rough – and now only partly comprehensible - attempt to stabilise the junction of the south chancel wall and the north-east corner of the Charteris Aisle. As part of this a quadrant buttress of masonry and an iron bar have been inserted at a point where a large secondarily inserted window appears to have collapsed.

Work is currently (2013) in progress by the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust to conserve the building.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 111-12.

2. Accounts of the building include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 3, 1897, pp. 513-17; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, South-East Perth, an Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh, 1994, p. 131; John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 457-59.

3. MacGibbon and Ross, 1897, p. 514; however, it should be noted that there is some confusion in that account over the locations of the doors.

4. MacGibbon and Ross, 1897, p. 515.

5. MacGibbon and Ross, 1897, p. 514.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 1221.

7. New Statistical Account, vol. 10, p. 1221.

8. Gifford, 2007, p. 457.



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

  • 1. Kinfauns Church, exterior, from north

  • 2. Kinfauns Church, exterior, from east

  • 3. Kinfauns Church, exterior, from west

  • 4. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel, traces of south door

  • 5. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel door, east jamb

  • 6. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel, east wall

  • 7. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel, north wall

  • 8. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel, south flank adjacent to Charteris Aisle

  • 9. Kinfauns Church, exterior, Charteris Aisle, south-east skewputt

  • 10. Kinfauns Church, exterior, east wall

  • 11. Kinfauns Church, exterior, chancel, south wall

  • 12. Kinfauns Church, exterior, north nave door

  • 13. Kinfauns Church, exterior, grave stone

  • 14. Kinfauns Church, exterior, Gray Aisle from south west

  • 15. Kinfauns Church, exterior, junction of nave and Gray Aisle

  • 16. Kinfauns Church, exterior, nave, south side

  • 17. Kinfauns Church, interior

  • 18. Kinfauns Church, interior, chancel and Gray Aisle from north east

  • 19. Kinfauns Church, interior, chancel, monument in south wall

  • 20. Kinfauns Church, interior, chancel, south wall

  • 21. Kinfauns Church, interior, chancel, tomb and blocked aumbry

  • 22. Kinfauns Church, interior, chancel, tomb and blocked aumbry, 2

  • 23. Kinfauns Church, interior, from west

  • 24. Kinfauns Church, interior, Gray Aisle

  • 25. Kinfauns Church, interior, Gray Aisle, panels along east wall

  • 26. Kinfauns Church, interior, Gray Aisle, panels along west wall

  • 27. Kinfauns Church, interior, Gray Aisle, vault

  • 28. Kinfauns Church, interior, nave, site of south door

  • 29. Kinfauns Church, interior, south aisle vault

  • 30. Kinfauns Church, interior, south aisle, memorial on east wall

  • 31. Kinfauns Church, interior, stoup inside south nave door

  • 32. Kinfauns Church, interior, tomb

  • 33. Kinfauns Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 34. Kinfauns later church