The church at the fishing village of St Monans in Fife church stands on an ancient religious site and is reported to be the closest church to the sea in the country, with the boundary wall of the churchyard doubling up as the sea wall. There are conflicting stories on the origins of the church, some say St Monan himself visited during the 7th century and had a chapel built on the site, others say his relics were brought here in the 9th century, and shrine was built to house them. The site was believed to have magical healing powers and this reputation grew in the 14th century, when it was claimed that King David II, son of Robert the Bruce, was brought here having suffered severe injuries at battle. Miraculously, he made a full recovery and to show his appreciation to the Saint, he funded the construction of a new, larger church on the site. Work started in 1362, and took 8 years to complete. The church was extensively damaged by attacking English naval forces in 1544, during the period in history known as ‘the rough wooing’, when King Henry 8th of England was trying to force a marriage between his son, Edward, and the young Mary, Queen of Scots.
The church later became connected with the witch trials in Scotland.
One of the main methods to break those accused into confessing to witchcraft, was sleep deprivation, and it may be from an incident at St Monans where this tradition was strengthened. In the 15th Century, a local woman named Grizzie was accused of witchcraft, and sentenced to be burned at the stake. While waiting to be taken to be executed, the guards thought nothing of her falling asleep, they had already done their job and had the confession. As soon as she fell into a deep sleep however, it is said she transformed into a droning beetle, and escaped. She was never again seen in human form, and all of those who were involved in her trial and conviction, were plagued for the rest of their lives with the sound of a droning beetle in their ears. After this, no witch was to be allowed to sleep, even after conviction. For the witches that were burnt at the stake, their ashes were placed in a loft space in the top of the church steeple, known as the Brunt Laft, where the wind from the sea would blow and scatter them far and wide.
The church is said to be haunted by the figure of a woman. In one reported incident, a young man whose role it was to clear and relight the furnace in the church had just completed his duties and was leaving the church, when his eye was drawn to a light shining from high up in the spire. He was mesmerised by the light on such a dark morning, and as he watched, he was suddenly gripped with fear when he realised it had developed into the face of a woman, who was looking back at him. He fled to the minister’s house and, as he was recalling what he had just witnessed, he fell silent. Behind where the minister stood was a painting of his deceased wife, and the young man instantly recognised her as the face that he had just seen at the tower. Off course with the connection of the witch trials and the church tower, many believe instead that the ghostly woman is in fact one of those accused of witchcraft, and left in the tower to be scattered by the wind rather than given a Christian burial.