Date: July, 2014
Location: Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom
St Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. The church has been one of Edinburgh’s religious focal points for over 900 years. The present church dates from the late 14th century, although it was extensively restored in the 19th century. Today it is sometimes regarded as the “Mother Church of Presbyterianism”. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, who is the patron saint of Edinburgh, as well as of cripples and lepers, and was a very popular saint in the Middle Ages.
St Giles’ was only a cathedral (i.e. the seat of a bishop) for two periods during the 17th century (1635–1638 and 1661–1689), when episcopalianism, backed by the Crown, briefly gained dominance. Prior to the Reformation, Edinburgh had no cathedral as the royal burgh was part of the Diocese of St Andrews, under the Bishop of St Andrews whose episcopal seat was St Andrew’s Cathedral. For most of its post-Reformation history the Church of Scotland has not had bishops, dioceses, or cathedrals. As such, the use of the term cathedral today carries no practical meaning.
The Thistle Chapel within St. Giles is the chapel of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s foremost Order of Chivalry. The chapel was built in 1911 at the south-east corner of the church. It is small, but exquisite, with carved and painted fittings of extraordinary detail. The Order was founded by King James VII in 1687 and consists of the Scottish monarch and 16 knights. The knights are the personal appointment of the monarch, and are normally Scots who have made a significant contribution to national or international affairs.