Serving the SetonsSeton is one of the finest medieval collegiate churches surviving in Scotland. Its story begins in the 12th century, when the site was chosen for a new church serving the parishioners of Seton. In the 15th century, the church was increasingly used as the private place of worship and burial vault of the Seton family, the local landowners. (Their residence, Seton Castle, lay immediately to the west on a site now occupied by Seton Palace.)
A college of priestsCollegiate churches are so called because they housed a college, or community, of priests. These were brought together by the local landowner to pray for his and his family’s salvation. During the course of the 15th century, the Setons began the process of raising their parish church to collegiate status. After the death of Lord John Seton in 1434, his widow, Lady Catherine, added a small side-chapel to the south side of the church, to house her late husband’s tomb and a private altar. (The chapel no longer exists.)
War damageDuring the Wars of the Rough Wooing between Scotland and England in the 1540s, the English burned the timber work and stole the bells and organ. Lady Janet, widow of the 3rd Lord Seton, did her best to repair the damage, demolishing Lady Catherine’s chapel and building the present transepts and bell tower. But the Reformation of 1560 effectively brought an end to the collegiate life.