St. Giles Cathedral

A Visit to St. Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh Scotland


Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It has been recognized as the capital since at least the 15th Century.

Given that traces of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found at Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat, it should come as no surprise that Edinburgh is teeming with historical places.


St. Giles’ Cathedral.

As a matter of fact, one of those historic places is St. Giles’ Cathedral. According to the Cathedral’s website, St. Giles’ was founded in about 1124, either by King Alexander I, who died that year, or King David I, who succeeded him.

If you think that King David I sounds familiar, then you may remember him from my post on Holyrood Abbey. 

King David I was the one who founded the Abbey in 1128. This was after being thrown from his horse and saved from being gored by a stag by the appearance of a holy cross.


According to legend, St. Giles was a seventh-century Greek hermit who lived in the forest near Names, in the south of France, with a tame deer as his only companion. One day, the King of the Visigoths, shot at a deer, only to find it held in the arms of St. Giles, who had been wounded in the hand by the arrow. Then, after some visits, the King persuaded him to become the Abbott of a monastery which he founded for him. Later he was canonized, becoming the patron saint of lepers, nursing mothers, and the lame.




Know Before You Go.

St. Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is located along the Royal Mile.

Entry to the church is free.

A permit, which is available for a small fee, is required to take interior photos. However, I arrived close to closing time (story of my life). I did walk around the beautiful interior and lit a candle and said a prayer on the Holy Blood Aisle. But alas, I have no interior photos.

Holy Blood Aisle.

In case you are curious, the Holy Blood Aisle is an area where you can light a candle and also write a prayer request. The stained glass window there depicts the death and funeral of James Stewart, Earl of Moray.

After Mary, Queen of Scots, forced abdication, the government of Scotland was placed under her illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray. He was a friend of John Knox (founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland). After James Stewart was assassinated in Linlithgow in 1570, he was buried in St. Giles’ and John Knox preached at his funeral.


Heart of Midlothian.

Another piece of history is located High Street, just away from the Cathedral’s West Door.

The Heart of Midlothian is a heart-shaped mosaic of colored granite built into the pavement and marks the entrance to the 15th century Old Tolbooth. This was the administrative center of the town, a prison, and one of several sites of public execution.

Prisoners were tortured here and spikes were used to display the heads of some of the more notorious who were executed.

The Tolbooth was demolished in 1817 but was featured in Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian, published in 1818.

It is a tradition to spit on the heart. Some say it was for solidarity for those inside. Others say it was the prisoners themselves who spat upon it as a sign of disdain when they were released. These days spitting upon the heart is seen as done for good luck.

Cathedral Entrance.

I had to wait until the Cathedral was closed to capture the entrance doors for all the Thursday Door lovers.



The architectural style of St. Giles’ Cathedral is 14th Century Gothic, with many alterations.

The Cathedral has a collection of stained glass windows that date from the 1870s onward.

Crown Spire.

The Crown Spire is the Cathedral’s most famed piece of architecture. While you can see the Crown Spire peeking out in the above and below photos, the first photo from the side of the Cathedral gives you the best view of this feature.

The Crown Spire was erected in 1495 and rebuilt in 1648.

Parliament Square.

St. Giles Cathedral is surrounded by Parliament Square. Parliament House, which gave the square its name, was built here in 1641 and used by the Scottish Parliament until the Treaty of Union in 1707.

Duke of Buccleuch.

The statue in the foreground is of Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott. Otherwise known as the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, who was a politician and substantial landowner.

The bronze memorial was unveiled February 7, 1888, and it shows the Duke wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter.

The top gallery has huntsman chasing a stag.

On the lower level, there are bronze reliefs of episodes from the Scott family history.

A Visit to St. Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh Scotland


While I’m sure my genealogy diverges substantially, I still find it fascinating.

For those of you who are new to my blog, the trip to Scotland with my mother and aunt was an ancestral journey. My mother’s maiden name is Scott and her father was born in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada. His father was born in Bothwell (Holytown, Pollocks Hill…it varies on documents), Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Scott Lineage.

So far, we’ve been able to trace back the Scott line to my 5th great-grandfather, John Scott (b. around 1771) in Scotland. He married Esther Palmer in Renfrewshire on September 21, 1794. He is living in Redtown, Renfrewshire on the 1841 census. Esther, who was born in Stirling, Stirlingshire, is listed as a pauper in Redtown, Renfrewshire, in the parish of Paisley Middle Church by the 1851 census. She is also listed in the same location as a Coal Miner’s widow on the 1861 census. Also, I have her death record which states that she died of old age on October 12, 1861, and that the informant was the Inspector of the Poor.

However, many first names are used, again and again, making the Scott line hard to trace. But, based on typical naming patterns, I believe John Scott’s parents to be John Scott and Euphemia ?.

Your Turn.

Have you been to Edinburgh?  If so, what did you find most fascinating? I return again in May and would love to know if you there’s anything I should add to my “can’t miss” sights

Have you studied your ancestral history? If so, from what part of the world do they hail?

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell. -Louisa May Alcott

Let your light shine!



24 thoughts on “St. Giles Cathedral

    1. Thanks so much Dee! I love visiting amazing churches. I remember visiting Chapel of the Holy Cross out in Sedona on my honeymoon (decades ago). I guess I’ve always had a love for their architecture. 🙂

  1. Lovely shots of the cathedral. The architecture is just stunning.
    There is so much history in places like this.
    Thanks for sharing it and for waiting around until after closing to get those nice unobstructed views of the doors 😉

    1. Thank you Norm. The old churches always have such amazing architecture. The history always amazes me especially since I live in such a relatively new country from a preserved building standpoint.
      We intentionally went back after closing so I could get a shot of them. There was a couple that walked up and tried to open the locked doors. I ended up snapping a pic with them in it because I didn’t think they’d ever leave…but I’m so happy that I was able to get an unobstructed view! 🙂

    1. The fact that you have similar photos is awesome. It’s rather nice when a city doesn’t change too much. My hometown grew so fast and large that it looks nothing like it did when I was a child.

  2. It’s a stunning piece of architecture, isn’t it? … but it’s the longevity of history that overwhelms me. Even you being about to trace your lineage to the 1700s boggles my mind!!

    We are but specks in time.

    1. These old Cathedrals always amaze me with their architecture and history. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how old some of these things are!
      I actually have a line that has been traced back to England in the 1500’s and the arrival into the U.S. in the early 1600’s.
      We are but a speck!

      1. I have pieces that I know little about, but the ones that I can trace make for a fascinating experience. 🙂

  3. So impressive. I love how you’re tracing your line and bringing the past to life. I have been to Edinburgh but it was a lifetime ago on a Contiki tour and, though I recall visiting an imposing cathedral, my memories of it are unfortunately vague. Lovely post. 💙

    1. Thanks so much! I love when ancestry comes alive. It makes it feel so much more tangible. I head back to Scotland in May, although this will be more about seeing places that we didn’t the last time. 🙂

  4. Sorry I’m late! These doors are so regal – the Gothic architectural style is my favorite building style, especially for churches! Wow, this is an amazing post, Amy – kudos to you!

    1. Thank you Jesh!! I love Gothic architecture as well. It’s been so nice to be able to see some churches in that style on my travels.

  5. Fascinating, all of it. Thank you for waiting for the door to close. 🙂 How cool that you could trace your line so far back! I never attempted this but seeing that my great-grandmothers’ name was Angelina Bertolli, I must have some Italian blood. 😉

    1. Thanks so much! I was happy to be able to capture the doors after closing. The square is usually quite crowded.

      My mother did a lot of ancestral work. Her father always held some level of mystery because he moved to the U.S. at the age of two. Quite a bit of the older generation had passed away before my mother was born.

      I haven’t found any claim to Italian blood….yet 😉

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