Princess Anne attended a service which featured music especially composed for the event by the Abbey's Director of Music, Dr George McPhee.
Afterwards she met members of the Abbey's 850th anniversary organising committee and unveiled a special commemorative plaque.
She received a gift from eight-year-old Stephen Chalk on behalf of the congregation.
Representatives from other churches in the town and the community of Paisley were also in attendance yesterday.
The Very Reverend Alan Birss, of Paisley Abbey, said: "It will be an honour to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to Paisley Abbey for one of the most auspicious occasions in our year of celebration to mark the Abbey's 850th Anniversary."
Founded in the 12th Century by Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland, the 'house of devotions' became one of the foremost Cluniac Abbeys in Europe.
After the Reformation, the Abbey church continued to serve as a place of worship for the people of Paisley and today is a vibrant parish church of the Church of Scotland.
The connection between Paisley Abbey and royal family is through King Robert II of Scotland, grandson of Robert the Bruce, who was born at the Abbey and is a forefather of our present Queen.
Celebrations for the 850th year of the illustrious Abbey kicked off with a medieval fair on September 15, St Mirin's Day.
It was the first of a year of events and activities to commemorate the Abbey's history and its continuing importance to Paisley.
Over the following months there will be, among others, a book talk by Alexander McCall Smith, concerts by the Paisley Philharmonic Choir and Scottish Opera and a series of walks as part of the Whithorn Pilgrimage.
Rev Birss, who has been the minister at the Abbey for 24 years, added: "Paisley Abbey has been at the centre of the town's history and is an architectural landmark for the town and a spiritual focus for the community.
"Times have changed but the Abbey's mission has remained unchanged. The events which will take place over the coming months will remind us all of that enduring legacy."
Details of the Abbey's 850th anniversary events, which run until September 15, 2013, can be found on the website www. paisleyabbey.org.uk