St Mary's Monastery

(Kinnoull Monastery)

An ecumenical religious retreat situated on Hatton Road in Perth, on the northwestern slopes of Kinnoull Hill, ¾ mile (1.2 km) east of the city centre, St Mary's Monastery is run by the Redemptorist Order (more formally known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer), which was founded in Naples in 1749. This was the first Roman Catholic monastery to be constructed in Scotland since the Reformation.

After an extensive search for a suitable site, the Order decided to locate in the East of Scotland, rather than the West where other Orders had already built churches. The site in Perth was bought from the Earl of Kinnoull in 1866. The development was privately funded and built by local architect Andrew Heiton (1823-94).

The forbidding B-listed Gothic structure consists of four-storey buildings arranged in a U-plan. The first buildings were completed in 1868, with the community taking up residence the following year, overlooking St. John's Church across the Tay where John Knox had incited the people to destroy the local monasteries three centuries previously. A church was completed at the N end in 1870 and a south range with clock tower was added in 1896 by A.G. Heiton (1862 - 1927). The church is cruciform in plan, with aisles to the north and south, and features heavy English Gothic detail. The chancel is the full width of the nave and the south transept is used as a sacristy. At the chancel end are niches containing statues of the Madonna and Child, St. Joseph and St. Alphonso de' Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Order. Below the church is a mortuary chapel and a crypt, the latter having a brick-groined ceiling. The crypt was restored in the early 2000s and is now available to local groups as meeting place. The altar is of Caen stone with a canopy decorated with coloured marble. The church also features a 'Father' Willis organ and 19th C. stained glass.

The project to build the monastery was not without difficulties as some of the local people (who were predominantly Presbyterians) were hostile to the Catholic community. When water was spitefully diverted away from the site, a spring was discovered, now marked by a shrine and known as Our Lady's Well, its waters said to have healing properties. This shrine was built in 1948 and includes a stone brought from Lindores Abbey and statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette.

The monastery houses various items that contribute to the spiritual, social, historical and architectural value of the property, including furniture made for the building by Lay Brothers, statuary, reliquaries and a fine library.

In addition to its role as a monastic house, St. Mary's trained priests and was soon also used as a retreat by the clergy. By the 1970s, owing to a lack of candidates for the priesthood, the training function was transferred to Plymouth in England and in 1981 St. Mary's became a Mission and Renewal Centre to serve the spiritual needs of the Catholic people of Scotland, later extending its mission to become an ecumenical centre. Considerable restoration work has proved necessary in recent years.

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