Two Scottish Romanesque Parish Churches: St Athernase, Leuchars and St Cuthbert, Dalmeny


  • Carole Cusack Sydney University


The Romanesque architectural style manifested in Scotland chiefly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, at a time when on the European continent it was being superseded by the Gothic. Romanesque, often called ‘Norman’ in the context of the British Isles, is represented in Scotland by certain major buildings, both secular and ecclesiastical. These include Dunfermline Abbey, the resting place of Robert the Bruce, St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, Kelso Abbey in the Borders, and Dunottar Castle, near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Characteristic features of Romanesque architecture include semi-circular arches, heavy barrel or groinvaulted roofs, thick walls, square towers, round pillars, small windows, and decorative blind arcading. These stylistic elements may appear plain and simple when compared to the soaring height, fragile clustered columns, and brilliant glass of later Gothic architecture. However, Romanesque buildings have a sturdy massiveness and austere charm, which is never more apparent than when it is manifested in small-scale structures like parish churches.2 This article considers two outstanding churches, St Cuthbert, Dalmeny and St Athernase, Leuchars, which are, with St Margaret’s Chapel, among the finest examples of smaller-scale Romanesque structures in Scotland.