Every year during the Hogmanay celebrations, there is a candlelit concert in St Giles’. It’s divine, so book your ticket well in advance
St Giles’ Cathedral has been the heart of Christianity in Scotland for nine centuries. Found on the High Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town, it dominates the city’s skyline, with it’s crowned steeple making a distinctive signature. The current building dates from the 15th century, but there has been a church on the site since early in the 12th.
Although called St Giles’ Cathedral, it is, in fact, not strictly a cathedral at all. Formally, a church is only a cathedral if it serves as the seat of a bishop — something St Giles’ has not done for several centuries. So it really ought to be known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. That said, its scale and grandeur undoubtedly befits a cathedral.
Birth-place of Valour, country of Worth
St Giles’ grey, massive bulk looms over the High Street, inspiring awe. The interior is understated but impressive. During the reformation the Mary-Bell and brass candlesticks were melted down to be made into guns, and the relic of the arm of St Giles with its diamond ring, among other treasures, were sold. It traded Catholic pomp for Protestant severity.
Indeed St Giles’ was the crucible of the Scottish Reformation. John Knox, the Protestant leader and firebrand preacher, served as minister there from 1559 until his death in 1572. As he was buried Regent Morton uttered, “There lies one who neither feared nor flattered any flesh.” His dour, indomitable spirit persists within the grey stone of St Giles: a bronze statue of Knox now stands in the north aisle.
A kingly flower
Among the many chapels of St Giles’ is the Thistle Chapel, built in 1911 to celebrate the Knights of the Most Ancient & Most Noble Order of the Thistle. The Gothic stonework is exquisite, depicting the helms and arms of the 16 knights, along with an angel playing bagpipes.
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