Radical plans have been tabled to raise £5million to complete restoration work which started 70 years ago at one of Moray’s most historic landmarks.
Pluscarden Abbey was founded on the outskirts of Elgin in 1230 after monks trekked 1,300 miles to the region from Burgundy in France.
The monastery’s modern-day keepers hope that by recreating the mammoth pilgrimage almost 800 years on, they will raise enough to rebuild the Grade A building’s south range.
From the 16th century, the abbey fell into decay and work only began to address the damage in 1948 when a Benedictine order occupied it as a ruin.
The monks are now in their 68th year of repairing the expanse, and say a final push is needed to collect the funds needed to complete the work.
Retired Gordon Highlander Lieutenant Colonel David Broadfoot MBE was given the task of finding a way to raise the money.
The military legend travelled to Rome last month for lengthy talks with experts on the monks who founded Pluscarden.
He then laid plans for the “1230 Pluscarden Pilgrimage”.
Yesterday, the former soldier revealed he was confident the crusade would attract royal support, with a high-profile backer lined up to act as patron.
He added: “It was during a 12-hour meeting in Rome before Christmas that myself and others planned the initial route.
“Huge interest in the project has been expressed and we await with great excitement to see if the uptake will be sufficient to proceed.
“Sponsors will be sought for each leg of the journey, and work has already started in getting two major names involved, one in France and one in the UK.
“In addition, it is hoped that in a week or two we will announce our royal patron.”
As the only current Benedictine monastery in Scotland, Pluscarden Abbey is home to 21 resident monks and attracts about 15,000 visitors every year.
If the monks can rally enough people to take part in the mission by the end of March, the abbey will appoint a full-time director and operations manager to oversee the pilgrimage.
Its Benedictine residents aim to refurbish its south range with a new slate roof, stone walls and carved masonry details similar to the rest of the monastery.
The trek is planned to take place between June and September next year, and organisers hope the chosen route could become a frequently used pilgrimage trail.
Lt Col Broadfoot added: “This would hopefully bring many visitors to Moray in the future.”
A stone from the original abbey will be carried throughout the pilgrimage and will constitute the foundation stone of the new south range.
The trek will be broken down into 12 legs of 100 miles apiece, with a final stage of 80 miles.
It is anticipated each phase will take six days to complete, with a maximum of 40 participants involved on every occasion.
Sundays will be treated as a day of rest and worship, where participants and sponsors change.
Each participant for each stage of the campaign will have to gather a minimum of £1,230 in sponsorship to be able to take part.
The abbey was founded in 1230 by King Alexander II of Scotland and its first inhabitants were French Valliscaulian monks.
Historians believe the brethren found the tranquil spot reminiscent of the wooded valleys of Burgundy and settled happily.