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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

Tullibardine: A Medieval Treasure

Tullibardine Chapel from the northeast.

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In 1446, Sir David Murray and his wife, Lady Margaret Colquohon, set about to build a chapel just south of their home, Tullibardine Castle. Such was not an unusual undertaking for a nobleman at the time. Such nobleman would build churches and house a college or small group of clerics and/or priests. These priests and clerics who would then spend their days in prayer for the health and well-being of their benefactor and his family during their lifetime and for their release from Purgatory after their death. The prayers extended to those that had walked before and to those that were to come, and no one envisioned a time when Catholicism would be wrenched from the fabric of Scotland. The prevalent belief at the time was that these churches would be around forever.

At this time, Scotland was Catholic. Martin Luther had not published his thesis, nor had King Henry VIII started killing and marrying wives. These churches/chapels served not only the nobleman’s family, but the surrounding community as well, many of whom were indebted to the noblemen for their care. Mass, Confession, First Communion, and Catechism classes were offered to the local populace, and in those days, a church’s door was never locked. The faithful, regardless of rank or station, were welcome within its walls.

If you, like me, are a descendant of Dugal McQueen, then your connection to Tullibardine Chapel is through his mother, Anne Mackintosh McQueen. Dugal's great-great grandmother was said to have been Lillias Murray (Dugal to Anne Mackintosh McQueen to Margaret Graham to Anne-Agnes Grant to Lillias Murray), and Lilias was a direct descendant of Sir David Murray.

Inside the chapel looking east

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Tullibardine Chapel, located in the wooded, peaceful countryside two miles northwest of Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross, Scotland, was of a plain, rectangular construction divided by a chancel at the eastern end and a nave at the western end. It is generally believed Murray intended to found a collegiate church, and it is generally believed Tullibardine Chapel functioned as one. Interestingly enough, however, no records exist of the legal steps taken to acquire collegiate status.

Sir David died about 1452 and shortly after the chapel’s completion. He is buried in the church, and an armorial plaque can be found on the north wall of the chancel. The plaque has the quartered arms of his mother and father, Isobel Stewart and Sir David Murray. Fifty years later, Sir Andrew Murray, grandson of the chapel’s founder, enlarged the chapel possibly in anticipation of his marriage. The renovations included a squat bell tower and northern and southern transepts which gave the chapel a cross-shaped layout.

Gravesone in chapel floor

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And then, in 1560, a hundred years after Tullibardine Chapel was built and fifty years after its enlargement, the Scottish Reformation swept the country. The unthinkable had happened, and very few Catholic churches survived the devastation and neglect. Even fewer still can be found in their original state.

Tullibardine Chapel is one of those few.

Even better, the chapel, stands today much as it did after Sir Andrew’s renovations, although it is no longer a collegiate chapel or a center of worship. It does sport a timber roof, and the signatures of the masons, called mason’s marks, can be seen in the chapel as well. The Murray Coat of Arms is displayed inside and out, and even after the Reformation, the Murrays continued to use the burial vault.

One of the vertical windows in the chapel

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The Murrays supported the Jacobite cause in 1715 and 1745, and Lord George Murray led part of the Jacobite army to victory over Government troops at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. It was not enough, of course, to secure the Jacobite cause. In the aftermath of the rising of ’45, Tullibardine Castle was badly damaged, and today nothing remains of it, although the chapel is considered one of the best, most unchanged examples of a medieval church.

In 1816 the Murray family sold their estates to the Drummonds who later became the Earls of Perth. The last Murrays were buried in Tullibardine Chapel in the early part of the 20th century.

Tullibardine Castle has been in state care since 1951. More recently, the time-traveler series Outlander filmed an episode titled Vengeance is Mine in the chapel. It is open to the public at certain times of the year, although the surrounding area can be visited at any time.


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