Hovering over the top half of the High Street is the crown shaped steeple of St. Giles’ Cathedral.
Technically speaking it’s not a Cathedral at all as there is no Bishop, so officially it’s known as the High Kirk.
Architecturally, it’s not one of Europe’s outstanding ecclesiastical gems even though it’s been here since 1124. The main reason for that is because what we mostly see today is just a couple of hundred years old after some major restoration in the 19th century.
That’s not to say that it’s not worth visiting because this is the church where John Knox was minister when he helped bring about the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century.
It’s also the church where King Charles I decided to introduce the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to the Scots in 1637. Fury erupted and the following year the National Covenant was signed which reminded the King that he may have been the King of Scotland but he was definitely not the head of the Scottish Church. The outcome of his interference led to the English Civil War and ultimately his life when he was executed in Whitehall in 1649.
The highlight of the church internally has to be the Thistle Chapel, built as a private chapel for the Knights of the Thistle, Scotland’s highest Order of Chivalry. I can’t believe that this remarkable Chapel took only two years to build between 1909 and 1911. It may not be old but the craftsmanship is superb and not to be missed.
As for the rest of the church I particularly liked some of the modern stained-glass such as the Burne-Jones and North Windows, and it’s also worth checking out the memorials to the Marquis of Montrose and Marquis of Argyll, who both had interesting roles at the time of the National Covenant.
The Royal Mile has plenty of attractions and distractions but it’s worth finding some time to visit St. Giles. Religion has played an important part in the lives of the Scottish people and St. Giles has played an important part in the history of Scottish religion.