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Replica reliquary recreated ahead of important Arbroath Abbey anniversary

The replica reliquary
The replica reliquary

State-of-the-art 21st Century technology has been used to recreate an important historical artefact in time for a milestone celebration at its one-time Arbroath Abbey home.

The eighth century Monymusk Reliquary is regarded as one of the nation’s most iconic treasures, the tiny casket created by Ionan monks having once been said to hold the holy relics of Saint Columba.

Andy Simpson of Angus 3d Solutions, Abbey Pageant Society Ken Lownie and Gavin Bain of Celtic3d

It is a key exhibit in Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, but those involved in the upcoming 2020 celebration of the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath have now been presented with an intricate copy of the priceless casket, painstakingly produced using hi-tech 3D printing techniques.

Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society has taken proud possession of the replica reliquary, designed and made by Gavin Bain from Celtic3d in Aberdeen and Andy Simpson of Brechin-based Angus 3D Solutions.

Mr Bain, who designed and finished the detail on the box said, “A lot of hours went into the project and I really wanted to get it right.

“I read a lot of research to get it accurate for the period.”

Arbroath Abbey PAgeant Society members with the reliquary

The original, now empty, is one of the few surviving reliquaries and is a wooden casket covered in silver and copper alloy.

Decorated with Pictish and Irish-inspired artistry including leaping beasts, it measures just over 11 centimetres tall and around nine centimetres in height.

Columba was Scotland’s most popular medieval saint and the reliquary is thought to have been given to the abbot of Arbroath Abbey by King William the Lion for safekeeping in around 1211.

It was subsequently passed on for saintly assistance to Scots in battle and was carried at the Battle of Bannockburn, transferring to Sir Francis Grant of Cullen in the early 18th century and remaining in that family collection until the 1930s when it was acquired by the people and became part of the nation’s museum collection.

The new reliquary will be used at future period costume events which have been a regular attraction at the ancient sandstone abbey over many years, including the wide-ranging programme being developed around the Arbroath 2020 celebrations.

The pageant society meets regularly at Arbroath’s Pende Cafe to plan their future events and it is hoped the approaching anniversary will bring fresh focus on the Angus landmark, its history and artefacts.

Angus Provost Ronnie Proctor has also backed a call for a return of the original relic to the Abbey as a showpiece part of the 2020 celebrations, a prospect being pursued by the organising committee.

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