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The Relic of St Margaret

The remains of St Margaret were taken away for safety before her tomb was destroyed at the reformation.  They were settled for a while at the Scots College at Douai in France. Subsequently they were taken into the care of King Phillip II of Spain (1527-1598) who placed them in the Royal Monastery of the Escurial. In the mid-19th century Bishop Gillis from Edinburgh set about the difficult task recovering the remains. Most of them had vanished. A shoulder bone, certified as genuine, was brought back and deposited in St Margaret’s Convent in Edinburgh. After closure of the convent the relic was transferred in 2008 to the RC Memorial Church of St Margaret of Scotland (10) at the junction of East Port and James St, Dunfermline (opposite the Carnegie Hall). At last Margaret was back in her home town! (Be careful not to confuse this church with the other St Margaret church in Dunfermline in the Touch housing estate about 1.5 miles east of the city centre).

St Margaret’s Church in East Port.

The relic is housed in an ornate reliquary which is kept securely in a display area incorporated in the altar of the Lady Chapel at the side of the main church. In 2019 the reliquary was briefly opened to allow electronic scanning to make a replica and to determine the health of St Margaret who was suspected to have been in bad health through regular fasting.

Reliquary with St Margaret’s shoulder bone at the centre.

The church is nearing the end of three years of refurbishment. In the recently rebuilt church porch there is on long-term loan from Abbot House in the town the reconstruction of the lost head reliquary of St Margaret which used to contain her head remains. There are QR codes on display around the church which can tell you about St Margaret and the relic.

The replica head shrine of St Margaret.

Before the covid lockdown the church was usually open for visitors until 4pm on weekdays with free literature on St Margaret. At present there are no arrangements yet for reopening. Over the front door is a stained glass window dedicated to Margaret. It is temporarily covered owing to the works.

The stained glass memorial to St Margaret over the front door of her church.


Image credits – Martin Wilkinson