St. Giles' Cathedral
High Street, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 1RE
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- Opening hours:
Mon - Fri 9.00am - 7.00pm
Sat - 9.00am - 5.00pm
Sun - 1.00pm - 5.00pm
Free Entry though donations gratefully received.
529 St Patricks Square, Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9EZ
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15 reviews of St. Giles' Cathedral in English
Lovely cathedral and a great cafe – entrance around the back opposite the law courts – basic stuff such as Jacket spuds at reasonable prices and cheerful staff, Just nice to visit both the church and cafe so close to the Royal Mile
A lovely old cathedral. I couldn’t help noticing however that although it has a fantastic statue of John Knox in it there there was no tomb. When I enquired about this I was told that his burial place is marked by an orange spot on the pavement in the car park outside. Apparently he was buried in the churchyard of St Giles but the bodies were exhumed and dumped in Greyfriars Churchyard when they built the car park. Sad to treat the remains of such an important historical character in this way.
St Giles is not the prettiest or most dramatic of cathedrals, but has a complex and interesting history and its setting on the Royal Mile makes it an essential stop on the tourist trail, as well as a unique place to attend a service.
There has been a place of worship on the site for around 900 years, and possibly longer, as there is a record of a parish church in Edinburgh in 854AD. A Romanesque church on the present site was built in the 1120s and dedicated to St Andrew in 1243, but later rededicated to St Giles.
This church was later enlarged in the Gothic style, and the present choir, built between 1320 and 1380 is the main remnant of this building. Partially burned in 1385, it was repaired and further expanded during the 15th and 16th centuries. From this period are the Albany Aisle (1409) and the Preston Aisle (c. 1454). Private chapels were also inserted, and by the 16th century there were some 150 chapels.
However, the church underwent major changes as a result of the ministry of the famous Scottish Reformation churchman, John Knox, who was Minister at St Giles 1559-1572. During this period the church was reorganised to reflect the Reformed style of worship, which included removing many of the chapels and much of the stained glass. Because of his Ministry, the church is regarded by many as the spiritual home of Presbyterianism. The building was also partitioned for other uses, which over subsequent years including a police station, fire station school and coal store.
During the 17th century, the church came under Episcopal (Anglican) control, and was elevated to Cathedral status in 1635-38 and again in 1661-89; these changes reflected the tensions in Scotland of introducing Episcopalianism: in 1638, those opposed to King Charles’ plans to reintroduce episcopacy in Scotland signed the National Covenant. After various power struggles, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland became the Established church, and St Giles ceased to be a Cathedral, although the name has stuck.
The tensions are well illustrated by two impressive tombs in the church: those of James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, who resisted the National Covenant, and who was executed in 1650; and his opponent, Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, himself executed in 1661. Montrose was interred in the church after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660; his memorial dates from 1880. That to Argyll, in a similar style, dates from 1894.
The exterior was substantially restored in 1829, and from 1872 the partitions were removed and the interior opened up, with new stained glass windows inserted (all the glass dates from the 19th and 20th centuries). The major 20th century addition was the Thistle Chapel, built in 1911 for the Knights of the Thistle, Scotland's order of chivalry. It was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in an elaborate 15th century high Gothic style .
The church now dominates the central section of the Royal Mile, and its tower lantern is a prominent landmark. The area in front of the west doors has been opened up as a large and spacious square. The exterior is impressive, but most of the interest lies inside. The interior is dark and cavernous, an effect magnified by the presence of double south aisles and numerous small chapels (also referred to as aisles), the arcade arches giving a forest-like appearance.
Although it has transepts, the addition of aisles and chapels give it an almost rectangular plan. The architecture is largely late Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic, although many of the windows date from the 19th century restorations.
Most impressive is the Thistle Chapel which, with its complex vaulted ceilings and elaborate woodwork, is an impressive testament to early 20th century workmanship. The Chepman aisle houses Montrose’s impressive memorial, complete with life-sized alabaster effigy in full 16th century military garb. Argyll also has a life-size effigy, in Civilian dress, located in St Eloi’s aisle. The south Preston Aisle which leads to the Thistle Chapel, dates from 1454 and was erected to contain a relic (an arm bone) of St Giles, although this was lost in the reformation around 1560.
The 15th century Albany Aisle is now dedicated to those who fell in the two World Wars, and includes memorials to the various Scottish Regiments. The church walls are covered in numerous other memorials, of varying quality and interest, predominantly from the 19th century.
Today, as well as regular worship, the church has a regular cycle of concerts and recitals. It also has a shop off the north Chancel aisle and a restaurant in the crypt, accessed from the south side of the Chancel.
There is level access through much of the main body of the church, with an entrance ramp by the west door and in the Moray Aisle.
What a lovely cathedral this is, well worth looking in on the way up the mile. I was amazed at the layout inside, it's like lots of little churches under the same roof. A massive organ looks over the congregation. Some beautiful stained glass windows & coloured banners hanging all around.
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Really remarkable cathedral that , because it has been altered so many times throughout its history , shows elements from many different architectural styles. There are lots of different sections within the cathedral, memorials to different important scottish figures such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Elsie Ingalls. At the rear is the Lorimer designed Thistle Chapel for which there is a small charge, but it is well worth seeing. This is used by the Queen and her appointed Knights of the Thistle.
The cathedral is also know for its absolutely excellent organ . THere are sometimes recitals so you can also hear it outwith services.
( There is also a good cafe in the crypt)
wonderful cathedral that has an eerie sense of peace and calm. when i lived in edinburgh there were “sunday at 6” orchestral evenings. just outstanding music played by, i think, napier uni. lots of orchestral music is religious in origin so it was just fabulous to hear the music in this quite outstanding church. not much of a church goer but this is a beautiful place and i often had a little seat if i neeeded to think
St Giles Cathedral is amazing. Alot smaller than most cathedrals I have been in but I assume that is because it is within a major city. When we arrived someone was practising the organ which just set up an amazing atmosphere. The architecture is amazing and the stain glass is beautiful. A wonderful place to just have a quiet wander and the gift shop has some nice items within and the proceeds go to the upkeep of the cathedral.
St. Giles is, as noted previously, the birthplace of Presbyterianism. The cathedral is located right along the Royal Mile, and is worth a stop. If you happen to be there on a cloudy day, the inside can seem somewhat dark, but don’t let that put you off. In addition to beautiful stained glass, there is a small chapel that has gorgeous arts and craft carvings. I enjoyed my visit.
This cathedral has often been called ‘the mother of Presbyterianism’, do to John Knox taking on the role as the first post-Reformation minister after the last mass was said on March the 31st, 1560. Dedicated to St Giles, the patron saint of lepers and cripples, some parts of the church are held to date from 1124, although a fire in 1380 destroyed the church almost completely. Of particular note are the stained-glass windows, famed throughout Scotland as some of the best surviving examples from the 19th and 20th century. St Giles is seeped in the history of Edinburgh and its people, and a visit will undoubtedly enthuse the visitor to discover more of its pregnant history.
Not really a place for children of a younger age.
This place is steeped in history with amazing stain glass windows, carving s and stone works and a spectacular organ, it really awe inspiring.
As this is free it is well worth a visit to see some remarkable workmanship of the 12th Century.
There is also a gift shop and retaraunt.
Book in advance for group bookings
i am not very much of a cathedral guy.what i would say is that the cathedral is much more beautiful from the outside. inside is a bit of a deception, despite the stunning glass windows.
unlike most of the cathedrals, this very one has a shape of a greek cross, instead of the more common catholic one. there is a small chapel once there worth to get in, richly decorated with craft and art.
eventually, once outside, the builing shows again a majestous shape in concordance with the tone and colours of the royal mile.
it is ok, but don't dwell too long in there if you are to visit more stuff
Despite not being religious, I have always been struck by the way that churches and especially cathedrals have such an impact upon a person. The vastness of St Giles compared to the individual is phenomenal and what makes it even more fascinating is that this was built hundreds of years ago without the modern methods of building we have today.
The huge wooden doors open upon into a cool, calm, beautiful and serene environment where you can gather your thoughts or simply gaze at the cathedral. Entry is free but you are given the opportunity to part with a donation.
What is great are the Christmas services that are held which are well worth going to. Even if like me you are atheist the sentiment and passion of the service puts you in the Christmas spirit even if you are somewhat of a Scrooge! Organ recitals in any cathedral, least of all St Giles, are another brilliant experience.
St Giles can be found along the Royal Mile and you really cannot miss it!!
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