St Giles’ Cathedral – Edinburgh

Filed in Gather Travel Essential by on August 18, 2011 0 Comments
During our recent trip to the UK we paid a visit to St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, a magnificent cathedral that was first built around 1124 in the Romanesque style and dedicated to St. Giles, a prince born in Athens around 650 (saint of cripples and lepers) who died in France around 710.  The first dedication of the church was carried out by Bishop David de Berham in 1243.  The core of the building as it stands today started taking shape after a fire in 1322, when a transept was added to create the typical cross shape.  By that time, churches had already began to be built in the Gothic style. After a second fire in 1386 inflicted by the army of Richard II of England a new impetus was given for renovation work and it is from this time that the first building records survive and chapels we still see today were built.  By the time of the Reformation 200 years later, the architectural structure of St. Giles’ probably looked very much as it does today.  By that time, there were around 50 altars in St. Giles’, all dedicated to various saints and the Virgin Mary.  In 1466 the Pope granted St. Giles’ the status of Collegiate Church run by a provost and a chapter of canons.  This was just one step below Cathedral status.  In 1822, King George IV was the first monarch to visit St. Giles’ since the time of King Charles II 200 years earlier.  Since the Thistle Chapel was built in 1911, St. Giles’ has been regularly visited by the members of the Royal Family.

In the 16th century the Reformation started and people started to free themselves from the Catholic Church.  One of Calvin’s followers in Geneva was a Scot named John Knox.  Knox was born near Haddington, about 20 miles east of Edinburgh, around 1514.  He was taken prisoner in 1546 and was put in a French slave-galley.  After 19 months he was set free in France and became a well respected preacher.  It was not safe for him to return to Scotland, but England had become Protestant when Henry VIII broke with Rome.  When Mary I became Queen of England and restored Catholicism, Knox fled to continental Europe.  In 1559 when the religious climate in England changed once more, he returned to Scotland and became the leading preacher in the Reformation.  On June 29, 1559 he preached in St. Giles’ for the first time and a week later was elected minister, an office he would hold for 13 years.

This is a condensed version of its rich history.  During the next several posts, I will take you on a journey inside this church using photographs and historical and architectural references.  I hope you will join me!

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