DUNFERMLINE ABBEY received a royal visit last week to celebrate its 950th anniversary.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal attended a special service last Wednesday alongside more than 300 other invited guests from the community, churches, businesses, heritage organisations and charities.

The celebration recognised the changing history of the historical landmark, which was described as a "remarkable place" by the Princess, from a small church created by monks from Canterbury, to a great structure built by David I in memory of his mother.

During the service, a new anthem, composed by Lisa McMaster, and commissioned with the support of a grant from Creative Scotland, was performed by the Abbey Choristers and Kilgraston School Chamber Choir.

Pupils from Dunfermline High School also organised a music and drama display in the Nave prior to the proceedings, surrounded by imaginative images and lanterns also produced by the school.

The Princess Royal, who served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly in 2017, was invited as the patron of St Margaret's Chapel Guild at Edinburgh Castle.

Addressing the congregation, she said: "This is St Margaret's Day and it is an important St Margaret's message of unity and friendship that we are also celebrating here.

"I was honoured to be asked to be present today for the signing of the Declaration of Friendship between the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland.

"This formalises their close bonds of friendship.

"We have been able to celebrate St Margaret today and I think her legacy has helped to bring us this declaration and I thank you all for that.

"Once again, my congratulations on this significant anniversary for the Abbey and for the city of Dunfermline but also underlining the importance of what you have signed today."

The event coincided with Saint Margaret of Scotland’s Feast Day and offered the opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland to sign the St Margaret Declaration formally.

Named after the 11th-century queen who is buried in the Abbey, the document is the culmination of years of ecumenical relationship-building between the two Churches which recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and was signed in the presence of Princess Anne by the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly, and the Most Revd Leo Cushley, Roman Catholic Archbishop and Metropolitan of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Dr Greenshields said: "I am deeply honoured and privileged to be one of the signatories of the St Margaret's Declaration at Dunfermline Abbey in its 950th year and on St Margaret's Day.

"This new friendship agreement has been many years in the making and is aptly named after a Scottish queen who was venerated for her missionary Christian faith and her kindness and generosity to poor people.

"The declaration reflects the steadfast desire of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland and the Church of Scotland to continue to journey together and to see the healing of division within our nation.

"Friendship is a very deep relationship, a relationship of conscious and deliberate choice in which individuality is respected but there is room for disagreement.

"This is a relationship in which we stand alongside one another, support one another, rejoice together and weep together, pray for and with each other, and work together.

"I would want people across Scottish society to look at this new relationship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church and take away a powerful message – there is more that unites us than divides us as we strive to be an ever more united Christian voice in this land."

Written by senior figures from both Churches, the declaration describes shared beliefs, 'rooted in the Apostles, Christ's first disciples,' and acknowledges a common heritage.

It also recognises the divisions of the past, apologises for the hurt and harm caused and seeks to make amends, asserting ‘we repent and ask forgiveness of one other', though accepts that some differences remain challenging and that more work is needed on reconciliation.

The Rev MaryAnn Rennie, the minister of the congregation, said: "The celebration of the 950th anniversary of the priory at Dunfermline and the legacy of St Margaret of Scotland is an opportunity to notice that faith in Jesus Christ is sustained even in the changing patterns of church design, church reform and the challenge of growing secularisation.

"As the current congregation on the site, we are aware that we are tenants who at this time have the task of sharing Christ's story.

"As Christian people, we are inspired by the presence of Christ we see in Margaret of Scotland, as her story speaks of her piety, compassion, and commitment to others.

"These are values that we hope we continue in the activity of our church.

"But we also recognise the important role that this site has played in the life of the city; offering a home and place of worship and refuge for royalty, city residents and visitors."