Moonzie / Auchtermoonzie Parish Church

Moonzie Church, exterior

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1821, possibly incorporating medieval fabric; major restoration in 1881 and further works in 1906. Passed out of ecclesiastical use in the 1970s.

Historical outline

Dedication: Holy Trinity(1)

The church of the Holy Trinity of ‘Hotermunesin’ was granted in c.1214 to the Hospital of Loch Leven by the hospital’s founder, Bishop William Malveisin of St Andrews.(2)  Malveisin’s grant appears to have been of all revenues, which was confirmed c.1225-1236 by Henry, prior of St Andrews, and the chapter of St Andrews.(3)  It was noted that the church was dedicated on 5 April 1245 by Bishop David de Bernham.(4)  It was that same bishop who on 2 January 1251 granted the hospital and its possessions to the Trinitarian house of Scotlandwell.(5)  As the church of ‘Huchtermunsi’ it was noted in 1275 in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland as one of two for which the Master of Scotlandwell paid a total of 35s 4d.(6)  It remained united thereafter in both parsonage and vicarage to the Trinitarian community, being valued at £66 13s 4d at the Reformation.  The cure was at that time served by a vicar pensioner, Mr Robert Paterson, who received an annual stipend of 12 merks with ‘a little croft’.(7)


1. S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, iv, North Fife between Eden and Tay (Donington, 2010), 612.

2. I B Cowan and D E Easson (eds), Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 185; NRS RH6/23.

3. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 175-176.

4. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 526.

5. Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 185.

6. 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.

7. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 56, 83.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Also known as Auchtermoonzie, the church was granted to the hospital of Loch Leven c.1214. It passed to Scotlandwell in 1251, when the parsonage and vicarage were annexed, the cure being with a vicar pensioner.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 4 notes that the church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity in the early 1230s. Taylor suggests we should consider the possibility that dedication is a result of the fact that Moonzie parish was a new creation, carved out of the bishop’s lands of Kilmany, and intended to be gifted to the Trinitarian at Scotlandwell.(2)

1542 (21 June) Robert Arnot, rector of the church of Auchtermoonzie has his sasine of certain lands recorded by John Androson.(3)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with priory of Scotlandwell, value £66 13s 4d. Vicar pensionary held by Robert Patterson, 16 marks including a little croft.(4)

1564  The parish was united to that of Cupar; but in 1625, it was disjoined and again made a separate parish.(5)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Ireland): ‘the manse got some repair last summer, and the kirk and offices will need some soon’.(6)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Kidd): ‘The church of Moonzie is suited on a rising ground in the south west of the parish… It is a small pain building, without spire or ornament… It has all the marks of an old building but the time of its erection is unknown. It has been lately repaired (1821)’.(7)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): c.1770; alterations and additions 1882 (Hall church, rectangular hall with a horseshoe gallery).(8)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 151.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, p. 612,

3. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol. 37r.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 56 & 83.

5. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, p. 613.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), viii, 584.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ix, 796.

8. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p.258.


NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A.

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

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

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

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2010, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four. North Fife between Eden and Tay, Donington.

Architectural description

The parish of Moonzie, which was also known as Auchtermoonzie, was granted to the hospital of Loch Leven by Bishop William de Malveisin, probably in the early 1230s; it passed with that hospital to the Trinitarian house of Scotlandwell in 1250/1 by a grant of Bishop David de Bernham.(1) That same bishop dedicated the church on 5 April 1245.(2)

In 1564 the parish was united with that of Cupar, but it again became a separate parish in 1625.(3)  It appears that some of the seats were removed from the church to nearby Lordscairnie Castle, at a time when the hall of that castle was adapted for worship by an Episcopalian congregation expelled from the church, and in 1693 orders were given that the seats should be returned to the church.(4)

In the late eighteenth century it was said that repairs were needed,(5) and these were carried out in 1821.(6) There was a major restoration in 1881 by William Little and Son, when the present roof with arch-braced collars was installed, and a porch was added in 1906.(7) The church passed out of use for regular worship in the early 1970s.

The church is a diminutive rectangular building set high on an exposed hillside, with cement-rendered walls and freestone dressings; it measures 16.05 metres from east to west and 6.1 metres from north to south. The gables are crow-stepped, with a birdcage bellcote on the west gable and a ball finial on the east. It has three rectangular windows along the south wall, a single rectangular window close to the east end of the north wall, and a small rectangular window in the east gable. The porch of 1906 covers the entrance towards the west end of the south wall, and to the east of that door is the frame of what may have been an armorial panel, which is presumably of seventeenth-century date on the evidence of its mouldings.

Although on first sight there is nothing overtly medieval in the fabric of the church, there are several factors indicative of the shell being at least partly of pre-Reformation date. Despite its small scale, the proportions are what would be expected in a medieval place of worship, while the treatment of the east gable, with an offset at mid-height and the absence of any window below the gable are also consistent with a medieval origin. It might be added that the provision of a single window in the north wall towards its east end is also suggestive of a wish to provide light for an altar. As a final point, it was said that the repairs of 1821 located a coffin carved with a sword within the east end of the church, which is presumably evidence for a medieval intramural burial.(8)


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 151; Simon Taylor, The Place-Names of Fife, Donington, vol. 4, 2010, pp. 610-11.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 526.

3. Taylor, 2010, p. 613.

4. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 5, 1884.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 8, p. 584.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 792.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 325.

8. New Statistical Account, p. 792.



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

  • 1. Moonzie Church, exterior

  • 2. Moonzie Church, 'stoup'

  • 3. Moonzie Church, interior, 1

  • 4. Moonzie Church, interior, 2