Scriptorium writes new page in Arbroath Abbey history

A new chapter in Arbroath Abbey’s story was opened on Saturday when a new studio space for writers was unveiled in its grounds.

Mark Dowie
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 12:00pm
Scriptorium writes new page in Arbroath Abbey history

Created by artist Bobby Niven, the new scriptorium, part of the celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, is inspired by the power and influence of the medieval abbey around which the town grew up.

Scriptoria were rooms used for writing manuscripts and were common in medieval European monasteries.

The first scriptorium for more 500 years, the project was originally commissioned by the Angus Place Partnership – comprising the Arbroath 2020 committee, Angus Council, ANGUSAlive, Creative Scotland and Hospitalfield but the opening was delayed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Mr Niven said: “We know that Arbroath Abbey had a very large and active community, including monks who could transcribe and illuminate documents and bound early manuscripts into books.

“The ability to read and write and convey information and document history was as powerful then as it is today, and I wanted to reflect that activity in the design of the interior space.”

With colourful, snake-like arm motifs taking over the walls, the scriptorium is surrounded by grass, with the abbey visible from its large roof window.

The space will host events led by the scriptorium’s artists in residence, the first of which are set to take place in July, and will also be used by local groups including Angus Writers’ Circle.

Culture Minister Neil Gray performed Saturday’s opening ceremony, which was also attended by members of the partnership organisations and pupils from Arbroath Academy, who showcased artwork created in workshops led by mural artist Katie Guthrie.

Mr Gray said: “Our historic environment, culture and literature play an important part in shaping our future and this stunning Scriptorium is part of a legacy that will benefit generations to come.

Stephen Duncan, director of marketing and engagement at Historic Scotland, added: “We are pleased to be able to reopen part of this site to the public and we the programme of events at the Scriptorium as a key component of our visitor offer and engagement at Arbroath.”

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The scriptorium was designed by artist Bobby Niven.
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