The term "Collegiate Church" covered a variety of sins, often literally. Collegiate Churches were generally endowed by the great and the good (and the rich) of the land. Each was served by a small religious community whose primary role was to pray for the souls of their benefactor, his wife, and his family. Presumably the idea was to relieve the great and the good of the onerous burden of praying for their own souls. Lennon and McCartney may have been right in suggesting that "money can't buy you love": but in the Scotland of the 1400s many believed it could buy you salvation.
Dunglass Collegiate Church lies just north of Cockburnspath. It was founded by Sir Alexander Home in 1444, and its founding charter was confirmed by King James II and by the Pope in 1450. When originally founded it was staffed by a college of priests (hence the description "collegiate") comprising a provost, three chaplains, and four boy-choristers.
As originally built, Dunglass Collegiate Church had a choir and a nave. Off the north side of the choir was the sacristy. This was used by the priests to prepare for services and as a burial isle by the Home family. By the early 1500s north and south transepts had been added to the church to provide additional chapels, and a tower was built above the crossing.
By the time of the Reformation in 1560, the college of priests had grown to include a provost and twelve chaplains, plus boy-choristers. It is tempting to suggest that while the system of Collegiate Churches was convenient for the founders, it must also have been a pretty untaxing and comfortable existence for the priests, certainly by the standards of the middle ages.
The outside world did intrude from time to time. Dunglass Church was successfully defended against Henry VIII's invading army in 1544: but a more significant threat came with the Reformation in 1560. This effectively ended the system of Collegiate Churches in Scotland and resulted in the removal of decoration and statues from most churches, Dunglass included. You can still see the niches in Dunglass from which statues were taken.
Dunglass Church remained in use until the 1700s. It was then converted into a barn by the simple expedient of removing the large east window and the stonework below it to create a suitably-sized door. In 1807 the estate was acquired by the antiquary Sir James Hall, who then built nearby Dunglass House.
The south transept of the church was later used by the Hall family as their burial aisle. This probably helped preserve Dunglass from the more usual fate of disused churches at the time: to be dismantled for their stone.
In 1919 Dunglass was bought by the Usher family. Visitors today approach Dunglass Collegiate Church through the extensive and exceptionally well manicured grounds in which it stands. These are part of the estate of the new Dunglass House, built by the Ushers in the 1950s to replace the 1807 house which had been demolished after a fire in 1947.
Dunglass Collegiate Church has no windows and still carries the scar of the barn conversion in the 1700s. But the stone-vaulted roofs have ensured that most of the structure remains remarkably complete.
As a result you really can appreciate the beauty of the building and see the many grave markers still on view. You can also see the Knights Templar Crosses inscribed in a number of places on the interior walls. Their origin is unclear, as no link is known between the church and the Knight's Templar. The most probably explanation is that the crosses were added, perhaps by Sir James Hall, in recent centuries by someone wanting to give the church more of an air of mystery.