St. Giles Cathedral ( and the Thistle Chapel)


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dawn on October 29, 2001

Although there has been a church here since the 9th century the currant structure dates to 1140 in the area around the 4 central pillars. The tower is from the 15th century and the Thistle Chapel was added in 1911. It is a bit bizarre that the guillotine (named " the Maiden") was once stored here and that the church was divided into four different congregations. Must have been a confusing place to worship!

Enter the West doors and turn right. Along the back wall is a tomb carved in white marble dedicated to the 47 women and 124 children that were killed on the banks of the River by the English in 1844. No need to wonder why the Scots want independence even today. (* as a side note...the first-ever Scot Parliament building is under construction by Holyrood.)

I was confused when I continued walking the aisle and came to a document from 1638 called the National Covenant, but found out later that it was a formal protest by the people to changes proposed by the King in the reformed church.

Doesn't seem like a big deal now...but you could easily have lost your head expressing that opinion back then.

You'll pass a huge organ with 4,156 pipes. This is a 1992 replacement of a much older organ. We returned here one night for a free concert of Bach and other composers that was very well done.

Next, you'll approach the side altar dedicated to the Earl of Moray, who was assassinated. He was the illegitimate half brother of Mary QOS and his name was also James(as Mary named her son indicating that they were close.) It wasn't a good time to be a Roman Catholic, and the stained glass windows from 1883 tell the story.

The far right corner is the entry to the delightful Thistle Chapel. What a treat to see the ceiling of arched thistle in bloom made out of concrete!Thistle is the national "flower" for many reasons. It can be an irritating and painful thing if you happen to mistreat it.....and it's very hard to kill.

The order of the Thistle goes back to medieval times and is one of Scotland's highest honors. When you enter the chapel, you will see narrow wooden alcoves for each of the 16 knights. These wooden seats display religious ideas, family coats of honor, and ancient symbols such as dragons....all carved out of wood. Near the entrance is the Queen's stall and two others for royals.

Take your time and really explore the carved, and often painted,artistry in this room.

St. Giles' Cathedral
High Street, Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1RE
+44 131 225 4363

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