Ground-breaking partnership to breathe new life into medieval Stirling church
Published on 3 October 2023 3 minutes read
An historic church with links to Mary Queen of Scots has entered into a new partnership to capture the hearts of tourists.
The Church of Holy Rude in Stirling has teamed up with a local charity to host a captivating new exhibition and a dedicated team of tour guides.
The interactive showcase sets out the church's remarkable role in history, marking the first major step in its evolution into a must-visit tourist attraction.
The congregation has forged a partnership with Stirling District Tourism, which is committed to promoting the historical and cultural richness of the city, and both parties have high hopes that the church will become a world-class tourist attraction.
Described as a "hidden gem" nestling in the shadow of Stirling Castle, the Church of Holy Rude, meaning Holy Cross, was founded in 1129.
It has stood as a timeless symbol of faith and history and the pinnacle of this narrative is the coronation of Mary Queen of Scot's infant son, James VI, in 1567.
This momentous event - leading reformer John Knox led the service - gave Holy Rude the distinction as the sole active Scottish Church to witness a royal coronation.
James VI later commissioned a Bible in his name, the very version on which King Charles III swore his oath at Westminster Abbey in London in May 2023.
Rev Alan Miller, minister of the Church of Holy Rude, said: "The Kirk Session is delighted that it has been able to enter into a new partnership with Stirling District Tourism as a means to securing the future of this beautiful, historic building.
"It is our hope that it will raise the profile of the church, not only as an important visitor attraction but also as a living place of worship to continue supporting the mission of the Kirk to Stirling and the wider world."
The present A-listed building dates back to 1452 and its architectural wonders include a nave and tower dating back to 1456 and one of the few surviving medieval open hammer-beam roofs in the country.
The stunning stained-glass windows, casting a kaleidoscope of colours across its sacred space, and the colossal stone pillars adorned with secret and hidden green men contribute to the church's undeniable allure.
The church houses precious relics from Cambuskenneth Abbey, believed to date back to the time of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, including a bell that was rung to celebrate both the victory at Bannockburn and Bruce's funeral mass as his coffin passed on its way to Dunfermline.
In 1997, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Church of Holy Rude to witness a re-enactment of the coronation of her ancestor and to unveil a commemorative inscription to mark the event.
Chair of Stirling District Tourism, David Black said: "Our ground-breaking partnership with the Church of the Holy Rude promises to establish a lasting legacy of exceptional visitor experiences while contributing to the Church's long-term sustainability and preserving its identity as an iconic place of worship for generations to come.
"The launch of our first exhibition, alongside a new website and online booking system, marks a significant milestone in this remarkable journey.
"Through interactive displays and captivating narratives, the showcase unveils the untold stories of the church and the historic medieval quarter that surrounds it.
"We hope it will act as a catalyst to attract visitors to the old town, where tales from the past await around every corner."
The new exhibition masterfully weaves together the threads of history, narrating the church's sacred role and its profound affiliations with royalty and the ancient Royal Burgh of Stirling.
Susan Ross, Project Lead for Stirling District Tourism said: "It has been a pleasure to work with the Rev Alan Miller and members of the Kirk Session at the Church of the Holy Rude over the past year.
"Together, we've developed a shared understanding of how we could improve our offering to visitors so that the Church of the Holy Rude becomes a must-see visitor attraction for locals and tourists alike.
"We're looking forward to developing our events programme and to partnering with local and international tour operators to raise awareness about this amazing hidden gem.
"As we look ahead to 2024, we're excited to build upon the strong foundations we've laid this year, working collaboratively to create a world-class visitor attraction at the heart of Stirling's Old Town."
In tandem with the new exhibition, Stirling District Tourism has created a user-friendly website, allowing visitors to buy tickets online (£5 adults, £4 concessions, under-fives go free).
Profits from ticket sales will be reinvested into conservation and enhancements to improve the visitor experience.