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Photographer's Note

This is a picture of St. Giles' Cathedral which sits on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh's Old Town. Despite its name, St Giles' Cathedral is not, in fact, a cathedral. The title gives an idea of its magnificent scale, but was only strictly correct for two short periods when Bishops served in the Scottish Church, from 1633-8 and from 1661-89. A more correct name for it nowadays is therefore "The High Kirk of St. Giles" or the "High Kirk of Edinburgh" and it is now the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.

I have previously posted a similar picture in colour but, looking through my archives, I thought this one might look quite nice in black and white. This is the west end of the cathedral seen from the northwest.

The origins of St Giles' date back to about 1130 when a parish church was built to serve Edinburgh during the reign of King David I. The church was originally granted to the Lazarites and its dedication was to St Giles as the patron saint of lepers. Over the years a building that probably started as a simple nave and chancel grew aisles along each side, plus transepts and a tower over the crossing.

In 1385 English troops under King Richard II sacked Edinburgh and set fire to St Giles'. The damage was quickly made good and over the following centuries St Giles' Cathedral grew organically: an aisle added on here, a chapel there. The main external change came in about 1500 when the tower was heightened and the stone crown added to its top. By this time St Giles had become a collegiate church, one served by a college of canons whose role was to service the many chapels and altars in the church and pray for the souls of rich patrons and their families.

The Reformation, the storm of change that swept across the Church in Scotland in 1560, was ignited by a sermon preached in St Giles' by John Knox on 29 June 1559. Knox went on to become Minister of St Giles' and his statue now stands in the nave.

By 1581 St Giles' served three different Reformed congregations and internal walls were built to separate the areas they used. Other parts of the church were used for a variety of purposes, including storage space for Edinburgh's guillotine, the Maiden. Except during the short periods when it was formally designated a cathedral in the 1600s, St Giles' spent much of the following 250 years divided by internal walls. In 1684 the crown on top of the tower was repaired, but otherwise the late 1600s and the 1700s were a period of stagnation and decay.

By 1800 St Giles' Cathedral was in poor condition. It had by now been divided internally to form four separate churches, plus a meeting house for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, a police office and a fire engine house. It took a major restoration of the interior between 1871 and 1883 to finally remove the post-Reformation internal walls and return the church to the more unified, if still complex, space that can be seen today. This was largely paid for by the publisher William Chambers.

You can see some pictures of the interior of this church here and here.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1300 W: 396 N: 4935] (19780)
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