The Parish Kirk of Crail was founded in the second
half of the twelfth century, though the site appears
to have older religious associations. In its first form,
it consisted of an unaisled rectangular nave and
chancel of Romanesque design.
In the early thirteenth century, a tower was added
at the west end and the nave was re-built with
arcades of six gothic arches opening to north and
south aisles and a new arch opening to the chancel.
In this form, the building was dedicated to Saint
MAELRUBHA of Applecross in Wester Ross on
21st June 1243 by David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews. In later times it was known as St. Mary’s, probably after a later dedication in a period which disliked vestiges of the Celtic Church.
From an early period, the church belonged to the Cistercian Nunnery of St. Glare in Haddington, from which it was formally disjoined in 1594.
In 1517 it was raised to the dignity of a Collegiate Church with a Provost, ten prebendaries, and a Clerk. The erection was confirmed by royal charter in 1526. In connection with this new foundation the chancel was considerably lengthened and additional chapels were formed in the aisles of the nave.
This exalted status of the church was largely due to the indefatigable labours of one man - Sir William Myrton, who was at one time a chaplain of the Altar of St Michael the Archangel and later vicar of Lathrisk (Kingskettle). The rich furnishings of the church and its chapels are fully recorded in “The Chartulary of the Collegiate Church of Crail”.
In June 1559 John Knox preached in the Church on his way to St. Andrews, and “the old order changeth giving place to new”.
In 1587 a charter of James VI grants to the magistrates, council and community of Crail, the collegiate church with its rents for the sustentation of the Church, college and hospital.
The years 1648-1660 witnessed the tumultuous ministry of James Sharp, afterwards Archbishop of St. Andrews and murdered on Magus Muir in 1679.
Crail Kirkyard is recognised as a significant burial ground that carries the evidence of how affluent a trading town Crail was in earlier centuries.
Crail Kirkyard has a significant number of Mural Monuments, 17 in total, whereas most other Kirkyards in Scotland would have maybe one or two.
A Mural Monument is a funeral monument built into a wall, usually that of a kirkyard, sometimes that of a building. They were most common in Scotland between 1400 and 1750 and often had an elaborate mixture of sculpture and carving. Other significant examples can be seen St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney and Huntly Castle in Aberdeenshire.
We are very fortunate that in 1893 Erskine Beveridge completed a photographic survey of Crail Kirkyard memorials. Erskine Beveridge was a Dunfermline factory owner with a fascination for Scottish antiquities and a keen interest in early photography. His book can still be purchased, The Churchyard Memorials of Crail, it has many interesting details on Crail Church and Crail Kirkyard.
The Mural Monument for James Lumsden of Airdrie is deemed to be the most significant and oldest monument in Crail Kirkyard. It is situated in the North West corner. James Lumsden was born in 1555 (or 1556, there is doubt on which year he was born) and died in 1598.
So this monument is probably over 400 years old. This monument may have possibly come from Holland. It was not uncommon for major monuments to be purchased in Holland. A Ledger from that time records that one tomb cost 28 shillings for the design, and £31 8s 2d for manufacture, packing and shipping from Holland.