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About the Project


The Sacred Landscape research project is based in St Mary’s College at the University of St Andrews. Our team are seeking to understand how religious activity has influenced the development of the landscapes and buildings of Fife between the Early Middle Ages and the present.  

Project timeline


The first phase of the Sacred Landscape project was part of the University of St Andrews’ broader Fife Coastal Zone collaboration, and as a result much of the initial investigation focused on current and former places of worship in parishes close to the sea. This research identified several former places of worship in Fife not recorded in national resources such as Historic Environment Scotland’s Canmore database or the volunteer-led Places of Worship in Scotland website.

Shaping the Communities

The Sacred Landscape team are also researching the role that religious organisations have played in shaping the communities and built structures of Fife, through landholding, the construction of schools and church halls, and the fostering of transport infrastructure such as ferries, bridges, and roads. 

Loss of religious space

A key theme of the Sacred Landscape project relates to the loss of religious space. There are more closed churches than current places of worship in Fife. The project team are currently researching the loss of religious buildings between 1500 and 2020, and whether past experiences of church closures and demolition might provide helpful insights for current discussions about the future of Scottish religious buildings

Our Team

The Sacred Landscapes project is a collaboration between theologians and historians. Our team has diverse experiences, although all have a strong interest in religion in Fife – both past and present.

Dr Brendan Wolfe

Principal Investigator

Brendan Wolfe is the founder and Principal Editor of the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology, with broad interests in historical theology, and theology and the arts.


Dr William Hyland

Senior Advisor

William Hyland is Lecturer in Church History at the University of St Andrews. He has published on topics as varied as the late medieval theologian Nicholas of Cusa, the twentieth-century Scottish religious writer Lucy Menzies, and the material culture associated with Andean spiritual practices. Dr Hyland has particular expertise in the study of late medieval monasticism and Catholic spirituality.


Dr Bess Rhodes


Bess Rhodes specialises in late medieval and early modern Scottish history, with a particular interest in landscapes and religion. Her monograph Riches and Reform examined the impact of the Reformation on church wealth in St Andrews. She is Associate Lecturer in Early Modern Scottish History at the University of St Andrews. 


The Rev’d Giles Dove

Project research assistant

Giles Dove completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of St Andrews, including researching saints’ cults in mediaeval Fife. His professional career has included senior management positions in External Relations and Development in the education sector. As a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Giles is active in ministry, including serving as Chaplain of Glamis Castle, Assistant Priest at All Saints’ Church in St Andrews, and Duty Chaplain at Westminster Abbey.


Dr Philippa Woodcock


Philippa Woodcock specialises in early modern European religious, cultural and diplomatic exchange. Her research has focused on the French Reformation landscape and the Huguenot diaspora, as well as Franco-Italian military and diplomatic encounters. She is Lecturer in History at UHI and an Associate Lecturer on the University of St Andrews Combined Honours MA. 


Dr Sarah Moerman

Project research assistant

Sarah Moerman is a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews, where she specialises in music and theology. Her most recent publication, Music and Spirituality: Theological Approaches, Empirical Methods, and Christian Worship (co-edited with George Corbett), explores the relationships between music, theology, and lived experiences of spirituality. She is broadly interested in the relationship between cognitive science and phenomenology, and music’s role in each. She is also currently the musical director of The Priory Singers.