St Giles’ Cathedral

Medieval Edinburgh’s main church & reformation HQ

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Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St Giles’ has been a landmark since 1160. It’s long and colourful history has included dozens of royal functions as well as some far more interesting rebellious activity.

It was the key location from which Scottish protestant leader John Knox launched and directed the Scottish Reformation. There was further uprising in 1637 when local stall holder Jenny Geddes hurled her stool at a preacher who wanted to introduce the English Prayer Book – which led to the rest of the congregation chasing the clergyman away. A tablet in the north aisle marks the spot where Jenny let fly.

Other highlights around the building include the four massive 12th-century supports on which the church’s extravagant crown spire (1485) rests.

Much of the rest is much more recent: including several attractive Pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris; and the west window, controversially dedicated to Robbie Burns, whose heavy drinking and womanizing really flew in the face of Presbyterian values. Another famous Scot is commemorated on the south side of the church where an elegant bronze relief depicts Robert Louis Stevenson.

Finally, spare a few minutes to appreciate the bold and beautifully crafted 1911 Thistle Chapel. It’s a private chapel for the sixteen knights of the Most Noble Order of the Thistle, the highest order of chivalric knights in Scotland.

At A Glance

St Giles' Cathedral
Edinburgh EH1 1RE

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