St Giles' Cathedral

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A prominent feature of the Edinburgh skyline, St. Giles' Cathedral with its distinctive hollow-crown tower decorates the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood. St. Giles himself was the patron saint of cripples and lepers, which gives a clue to the antiquity of the church. It has been one of Edinburgh's religious focal points for over 900 years. The oldest parts of the building are four massive central pillars, dating from 1120. Over the years chapels added while enlarging the church has left it irregular in plan. At one time there were fifty altars.

Today it is the mother church of Presbyterianism and is the historic City Church of Edinburgh. It has uniquely reflected the life and religion of Scotland. On the signing in 1707 of the Treaty of Union to merge the Parliament of Scotland with the Parliament of England, the carilloner in St Giles rang the bells to the tune ‘Why should I be so sad on my wedding day?’

It was at this church that John Knox, Scotland's equivalent to Martin Luther, preached his sermons on the Reformation in the time of Mary Queen of Scots whose Catholic faith was in opposition to Knox's beliefs. Over the doorway on the way out, there is an angel playing the bagpipes on the right side of the Statue of John Knox.

Inside gilded and ornately carved memorials honour heroes of past conflicts. Notable monuments include those to James Graham, Marquess of Montrose (1612-50), his enemy Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll (1607-61) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94). The back steps of this ornate church has seen many a man swing from the gallows. The back parking lot is directly over an ancient, and packed burial ground. Plaques embedded in parking spots mark a couple of the more famous bodies that lie beneath the asphalt.

The exquisite little Thistle Chapel is the chapel of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland's leading Order of Chivalry. Its magnificent carvings and stonework evoke the origins of the Order and amaze with the wealth of details associated with Scotland. It carved and painted fittings have extraordinary detail. The Order founded by James VII in 1687, consists of the monarch and 16 knights. The knights are the personal appointment of the crown, and are normally Scots who have made a significant contribution to national or international affairs. The Chapel honours some of the greatest Scots of the last 300 years.

The stained glass windows form a continuous story over seven windows. One of the last windows depicts St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, holding his cross. On either side of him are St. Columba and King David. Below are St. Giles and St. Cuthbert.

The magnificent organ is one of the newest and finest in Europe. It forms part of a tradition of fine music in St Giles' that dates from the middle ages.
St. Giles' Cathedral
High Street, Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1RE
+44 131 225 4363

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