Edinburgh: excavations reveal possible site of Carmelite priory

Archaeologists believe they may have located the site of the medieval Carmelite priory in Edinburgh, following the discovery of two human skeletons by workers preparing track for a new tram line in the Scottish capital.

According to a report in Edinburgh Evening News, the bones have been carefully removed from the site at the top of Leith Walk and will be tested by experts in a bid to determine their age.

City archaeologist John Lawson said they could be part of a burial ground linked to the medieval priory which once stood about 100 metres from the site in Elm Row. He said: "We have discovered two adult bodies. They are a bit of a mystery at the moment. We suspect they could be part of a Carmelite priory in the area, which later became a lepers' hospital. Historically, the location for the priory is thought to be on the other side of the road, near Deanside Place. We've been trying to find it for some time, but this is our first evidence of the site. There could well be more remains, but we just don't know at the moment. There may be some kind of cemetery here."

Later this year human remains from the medieval Carmelite priory in Newcastle, uncovered during development work, will be reburied in the city and a Requiem Mass celebrated by the Carmelite Family.

The Carmelite Family has a long history in Edinburgh, though the priory there was the last to be founded in Scotland before the Reformation, in 1520-25. Each summer the present-day Carmelite Family organises a pilgrimage to the Priory Church of St Mary's in the Edinburgh suburb of South Queensferry, the only medieval Carmelite building in Britain to have remained intact as a place of worship.

In recent years much archaeological research has been conducted on the medieval Carmelite houses of Scotland, spearheaded by Dr Judith Stones, Keeper of Archaeology at Aberdeen City Council.

An academic study of the Edinburgh Carmelite foundation,is available at: Richard Copsey, O.Carm., 'The Foundation Dates of the Scottish Carmelite Houses', in Carmel in Britain 3: The Hermits from Mount Carmel, (Faversham: Saint Albert's Press, 2004), pp. 135-162. This book is available to purchase from Saint Albert's Press.

For more information on the Carmelites see: www.carmelite.org/

Source: British Province of Carmelites

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