William Chambers.

The Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral online

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Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 1 of 37)
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BR 788 .S43 1881

The Scottish church from th(
earliest times to 1881 to


FIRST SERIES .^^'^l^f}^
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Edinburgh :
Printed by W. & R. Chambers.

,R£C. iAN 1E82 '


The following Lectures were delivered in St Giles' Cathedral,
Edinburgh, on the afternoons of Sundays in 1 880-81, at an
hour when there is usually no service in the church. They
were also delivered in the Park Church, Glasgow. They
were largely attended, and are now published in a volume, in
the hope that they may prove interesting to many who had
not the opportunity of hearing them. The Committee by
whom the arrangements in connection with the course were
made, desire to record their obligations to the Lecturers for
their services, and in particular to Dr William Chambers for
so appropriately prefixing to this volume his historical account
of St Giles'. It is right also to state here that each Lecturer
is only responsible for Avhat is contained in his own Lecture.

St Giles', Edinburgh,
Afaj' 1 88 1.



History of St Giles' Cathedral Church,

By W. Chambers, LL.D ix

Lecture I. — Heathen Scotland to the Introduction of Christianity.
By the Rev. James Cameron Lees, D.D., St
Giles' Cathedral {High Kirk), Edinburgh I

Lecture IL— Early Christian Scotland, 400 to 1093 a.d.

By the Rev. A. K. H. Boyd, D.D., First Ministei:
of St Andrews 33

Lecture III.— Mediaeval Scotland, 1093 to 15 13 a.d.

By the Rev. James Campbell, D.D., Minister of
Balmerino 65

Lecture IV. — Pre-Reformation Scotland, 1513 to 1559 a.d.

By the Rev. Alexander F. Mitchell, D.D.,
Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the
University of St Andrews 97

Lecture V. — The Reformation, 1559 to 1572 a.d.

By the Rev. Donald Macleod, D.D., Minister
of the Park Church, Glasgow ; and one of Her
Majesty's Chaplains 129

Lecture VI. — Episcopacy, Presbytery, and Puritanism in Scotland,
1572 to 1660 A.D.
By the Rev. John Cunningham, D.D.,
Minister of Crieff. 161

Lecture VII.— The Covenant, 1660 to 1690 a.d.

By the Rev. Robeet Flint, D.D., LL.D., Pro-
fessor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh.. 193

viil ' Contents.


Lecture VIII.— The Revolution Settlement, 1690 to 1707 a.d.

By the Rev. Robert Herbert Story, D.D.,
Minister of Rosneath 225

Lecture IX. — The Church of the Eighteenth Centuiy, 1707 to
1800 A.D.
By the Very Rev. John Tulloch, D.D., LL.D.,
Principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews,
and one of Her Majesty's Chaplains 257

Lecture X. — The Church of the Nineteenth Century to 1843.

By the Rev. A. H. Charteris, D.D., Professor
of Biblical Criticism in the University of Edin-
burgh ; one of Her Majesty's Chaplains 289

Lecture XI. — The Church from 1S43 to 1881 a.d.

By the Rev. Archibald Scott, D.D., Minister
of St George's Parish, Edinburgh 321

Lecture XII, — The Church of the Present Day : How far an out-
growth from the past, and an expression of the
religious thought and life of Scotland.
By the Rev. James Macgregor, D.D., Senior
Minister of St Cuthbert's Parish, Edinburgh 353

■tni r o/r





By W. chambers, LL.D.

OT Giles' Cathedral Church, in which certain noted
^ Lectures on the History of the Scottish Church have
recently been deUvered, is the original parish church of Edin-
burgli. Its history can be satisfactorily traced to the early part
of the twelfth century, when it superseded a church of much
older date. Occupying a prominent central situation on the
south side of High Street, its lofty and beautiful spire is seen
from a great distance. In the course of time St Giles' has
undergone various changes as regards extent and style of
architecture. Externally, it seems a modern Gothic structure,
with choir, nave, and transepts; but it is in reality old, of
various eras, shrouded in an indifferent and comparatively
recent casing. No ecclesiastical edifice in Scotland has passed
through so many vicissitudes, or has been so cruelly mal-
treated, and yet has so tenaciously survived as an interesting
memorial of the past. Identified with many stirring events in
Scottish history, St Giles' may claim a national character, while
it invites attention as a relic of art from the twelfth to the
fifteenth century. The present narrative aspires to be only a

iS/ Giles^ Cathedral Church.

brief historical sketch of this venerable edifice, along with some
account of the effort lately made towards its Restoration.

As early as 854, there was a church in Edinburgh included
in the list of ecclesiastical establishments belonging to the
Bishopric of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island ; for at that time
Lothian, in which Edinburgh is situated, formed a portion of
the province of Northumbria. In 1020, Earl Eadulf ceded
this part of his territory to Malcolm II,, king of Scotland.
Whether the church in Edinburgh was at first dedicated to
St Giles, is uncertain. It might have been so, for St Giles
lived in the sixth century. A word may be said regarding this

St Giles, or Sanctus Egidius, as he is termed in Latin, was a
renowned mediaeval saint, of whom there are numerous legends.
He is said to have been a native of Athens in Greece, and of
royal lineage. From Greece he migrated to the south of
France, and there in the neighbourhood of Nimes, retired to a
cave to spend his life in devotion as a hermit. The only
companion of his solitude was a hind, on the milk of which
_^ animal he partly subsisted. One

day, this favourite was pursued by
dogs and hunters, and fled to him
for protection, which it readily
received. Artists have usually
painted St Giles in the garb of
a monk, with a hind pierced by an
arrow, either in his arms or at his
feet. Lucas van Leyden, a Dutch
painter (1494-1533), represents St
Giles with an arrow piercing his
hand while he is sheltering the
hind ; as shewn in the adjoming
wood-cut. St Giles died in 541.
Numerous churches and other eccle-
siastical establishments, also hospitals, were founded in his

St Giles.

S^ Gilei Cathedral Church.

honour. In England alone there were a hundred and forty-six
churches dedicated to St Giles. His fame having reached
Edinburgh, he was adopted as the patron saint of the church,
and a hind figures as one of the supporters in the city arms.
For further particulars concerning * Sanct Geill and his Hynde '
we may refer to the late Mrs Jameson's tasteful work. Sacred
and Legendary Art, 2 vols. 1857.

A new church was erected by Alexander I. about 11 20. It
consisted of a choir and nave, with small side aisles and central
tower, built in a massive style of the early Norman period.
From all that can be learned, it covered less space than is
occupied by the present edifice. It might be described as a
substantial parish church, bordered by the parish burying-
ground on the south, the site of which ground is now occupied
by the present Parliament Square. To this St Giles' Church
there are various references in old charters and other records.
It is mentioned in an Act of the reign of Robert the Bruce.
The circumstance of the Castle of Edinburgh having been
selected as a residence by David I,, is understood to
have furthered the endowment and decoration of St Giles',
In 1359, David II., by a charter under the great seal, 'con-
firmed to the chaplain officiating at the altar of St Katherine's
Chapel, in the parish church of St Giles, all the lands
of Upper Merchiston, the gift of Roger Hog, burgess of

The church at this early period had for its chief clergyman an
official bearing the title of Vicar of St Giles, who possessed an
interest in a farm called St Giles' Grange, or more familiarly
Sant Geilies Grange, situated about a mile southwards, and
which has communicated the name of The Grange to a pleasant
suburb in this quarter. 'Under the date of 1243,' says Dr
Laing, ' we find the name of a Perpetual Vicar of the Church
of St Giles, Edinburgh; this circumstance, along with the
earlier reference to its Grange, suggests that the church must
have been attached to some religious house, and like the

6"/ Giles' Cathedral Church.

Priory of Coldingham, it might for a time have remained
subordinate to Lindisfarne.'^

St Giles' Church was destined to suffer an unexpected
disaster, consequent on the unhappy wars between England
and Scotland in the fourteenth century, Richard II., in
retaliation for alleged wrongs, invaded Scotland with an
English army in 1385. He laid waste the country, took
possession of Edinburgh, and after an occupation of five days,
committed the city to the flames. St Giles' Church perished
in the conflagration. All that remained of the building were
the entrance porch, a part of the choir and nave, with the
heavier portions that formed the base of the spire.

Rallying after this grievous calamity, the town was rebuilt,
and the civic authorities made a strenuous eftbrt to reconstruct
St Giles'. They entered into a contract for the building of
'five chapels' in St Giles', with pillars and vaulted roofs,
covered with stone, and lighted with windows. The contract
was dated 29th November 1387, in the reign of Robert II.,
and we may assume that the alteration was completed early
in the fifteenth century. The part so executed was on the
south-west of the nave. The style of art was lighter and
more ornamental than that which had been destroyed. After-
wards, some side aisles were added through the munificence
of pious individuals. These new parts are the fifteenth-
century style of art, as will be afterwards more particularly

On entering the building by the doorway from the High
Street, the visitor immediately ascends a flight of steps into the
spacious lobby constructed out of the transept, and turning

^ The Charters of the Collegiate Church of St Giles, Edinburgh, edited by
the late Dr David Laing. Forming one of the Bannatyne Club books,
presented by Sir George Clerk, Baronet, of Penicuick, and Alexander
Maconochie Welwood of Meadowbank and Garvock, Esq., the work is
remarkable as a monument of Dr Laing's literary industry and antiquarian

St cues' Cathedral CJuircJu

to the left, enters the choir on the east. Here, he will have a
good opportunity of observing the diversity in the architecture.
The pillars first reached are of a plain style, octagonal in shape,
with capitals to correspond. They bear no heraldic devices.
These were the original pillars of 1120, which survived the fire
of 1385. In the course of the repairs recently completed, when
the colouring and dirt of centuries had been removed, the
marks of fire were seen on these sturdy Norman pillars,
now seven hundred years old, and seemingly indestructible.

In the north wall, under the second window from the east,
there is a plain arched recess, the lower part being level like a
shelf. An opinion has been entertained that the recess had
formed part of a monument to Napier of Merchiston, inventor
of logarithms. This opinion is untenable. Napier died in
16 1 7, whereas the recess has been in the wall since the fifteenth
century. The recess is the relic of a mural tomb or shrine;
the level part having most likely been appropriated to a recum-
bent figure. Originally, the label moulding on the outer edge
of the arch had been fringed with finely-carved crockets repre-
senting bunches of oak leaves, but these decorations were cut
away at some unknown period, to suit the plastering of the
wall ! The marks of the crockets have been traced. This
arched recess has been copied in forming a similar one on the
outer side of the wall in 1829, which contains a tablet evidently
removed from a monument of the Napier family. The tablet is
no doubt that which marked the burial-place of the family on
the south side of the church.

Passing beyond the old pillars, and approaching the great
east window, we find two arches, one on each side, resting on
pillars of an ornate fifteenth-century style. These pillars have
bases of foliated sculpture, fluted shafts, and elaborately orna-
mented capitals. Two similar pillars are half sunk in the eastern
gable. The date of these four pillars with their lofty arches is
determined by their heraldic devices, more particularly the
devices on the first pillar on the north, usually called the

tS/ Giles' Cathedral ChurcJi.

King's Pillar. This pillar bears four distinct shields, which
have reference to James II., king
of Scotland, and his queen, Mary of
Gueldres, to whom he was married
in 1449. These two had a son,
James, who was born in 1453. There
is reason to believe that the shield
facing the east, which we indicate as
No. I, was carved and set up in
honour of that infant prince. It shews
the Scottish lion, rampant, within a
double tressure, with a label of three
points, denoting an heir or prince.
The shield No. 2, facing the north,
impaled, and incomplete at the
top, is that of the queen, Mary of
Gueldres. The shield No. 3, facing
the west, which has the lion, with a
double tressure, also incomplete, is
that of the king, James II. The
shield No. 4, facing the south, has
three fleurs-de-lis for France, with
which country Scotland had intimate

King's Pillar.

No. 1.

No. 2.

No. 3.

Sf Giles'' Cathedral Church,


No. 4.

These royal shields, silent and unobtrusive, and which
have happily weathered the civil and religious broils of
four centuries, tell a tale of mingled joy and sorrow —
the birth of an heir to the throne, the death of the king, shortly
followed by the death of the heart-broken queen-mother. The
happiness of James II. and his queen, Mary of Gueldres, was
of short duration. James, who had been
a kind patron of Edinburgh, was brought
to it a lifeless corpse from Roxburgh,
where he had been killed by the bursting
of a cannon, 1460. Mary of Gueldres,
his pious widow, a patroness of art, and
foundress of the Trinity College Church,
survived him only three years. Their son,
the boy prince, who on the death of his
father became James III., was murdered
1488. All things considered, we are
inclined to think that the date of the pillar must be set down as
1460, the imperfection in the upper part of the king and queen's
shields almost pointing to the tragical
event of that year. The work of recon-
structing the choir went on, however, for
a number of years afterwards.

On the half-pillar on the north side of
the great eastern window, there is a shield.
No. 5, with three cranes gorged; such
being the arms of Thomas Cranstoun, a
burgess and chief magistrate of Edinburgh
in 1439, and again in 1454, and who
most likely had taken an active part in
promoting the reconstruction of the church-
of his day.

We now proceed to the pillar immediately opposite, on the
south side of the choir. Here there are four shields, which we
shall speak of separately. Shield No. 6, facing the east, bears

No. 5.

-the city improver

Sf Giles' Cathedral Church,

the heads of three unicorns. Such were the Preston arms, set
up in honour of WilHam Preston of Gorton, to whom we shall
immediately refer as an esteemed benefactor of the church.
Shield No. 7, facing the north, bears three otter heads, being
the arms of the family of Otterburn. The person specially

No. 7.

No. 8.

honoured was probably Nicholas de Otterburn, as he is styled
in old writs, a learned official, much employed in public affairs,
and who was Vicar of Edinburgh in 1455. He had a nephew,
John de Otterburn, who founded com-
memorative services in St Giles'. Shield
No. 8, facing the west, bears the arms
of Kennedy, being a chevron between
three crosses crossleted. This is a finely
executed shield, with a double tressure,
and refers to a person of distinction. We
have no doubt it was placed in honour
of Lord James Kennedy, a grandson of
Robert III., and Bishop of St Andrews,
who rendered valuable assistance to the
state on the sudden death of James II., and superintended the
education of James III. He was designated by Mary of
Gueldres, 'our dearest cousin,' and is remembered as one of
the greatest men of his time — great from being a man of
learning and peaceful counsels. No. 9, facing the south, is

No. 9.

St Gi/es' Cathedral Church.

No. 10.

a plain shield, with a castle, the central figure in the city

On the half-pillar next the great window
on the south, is seen a shield, No. lo,
bearing the arms of Napier of Merchiston,
who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in
1457. The shield, styled the Lennox
shield, has a saltire, engrailed, cantoned
with four rosettes, which the family of
Napier assumed before the middle of the
fifteenth century.

There are three other renderings of
the city arms in the choir, but only one of them requires
notice. It is a square carving in stone over the doorway to
the small vestry, on the left on
entering the church. As shewn
in the accompanying wood-cut,
an angel is represented holding
a shield, No. 11, on which a
castle is emblazoned. This we
consider to be a very old render-
ing, as early as the twelfth or
thirteenth century. The orna-
mental bordering is of unusual
elegance. The existence of the
stone was unknown until the
recent Restoration of the choir,

when by the removal of a stair, the doorway with its character-
istic mouldings was disclosed.

Besides the extension of the choir eastwards about 1460, the
walls surmounting the older pillars were raised and improved.
Part of the original groining which sprang from the capitals of
the pillars still remains, partially chiselled away. The clerestory
groining is remarkable for its rich variety of bosses. On one
of the bosses is seen the monogram i h 0. Around another

No. 11.

Sf Gives' Cathedral Church.

bosse is the following legend : ^b^. Qra. pla. !bu0. izzM ; such
being an abbreviation of the words, Ave Maria, gratia plena,
dominus tecum (Hail Mary, full of
mercy, the Lord be with thee). We
present a wood-engraving of this re-
markable bosse, which escaped era-
sure at the Reformation seemingly on
account of its great height from the
ground. It is to be viewed as an
antiquarian curiosity. In the centre
of some other bosses is an orifice
from which had depended a chain or
cord sustaining a lamp. One of these lamps had hung imme-
diately in front of the high-altar. It is learned that the high-
altar of the early church of 1120 was not shifted on the
reconstruction of the choir. It remained in its original place,
and there was an altar of lesser importance placed behind it,
under the great eastern window.

The part of the choir between the southern row of pillars and
the south wall was originally known as the Lady Aisle. Of this
aisle Dr Laing says: 'In the charter dated nth January
1454-5, it is narrated that William Preston of Gourton, then
deceased, and interred in the Lady Aisle, had with diligent
labour and great expense, and aided by a high and mighty
prince, the king of France, and many other Lords of France,
succeeded in obtaining possession of the arm-bone of St Giles ;
and this inestimable relique had been freely bequeathed by him
" to oure mothir kirk of Sant Gell of Edynburgh withouten any
condicion." The Provost, Bailies, and community of Edin-
burgh, deeply impressed with the importance of such an
acquisition, voluntarily undertook to commence Avithin one year,
and to complete in the space of six or seven years, an aisle
" furth fra our Lady Isle, where the said William lyis," to erect
there his monument with a brass tablet, with his arms and an
inscription, specifying his having brought that relique to Scot-

Sf Gt'/gs' Cathedral Church.

land ; his arms also to be put in hewn stone in three other
parts of the aisle ; also an altar, and to endow a chaplain to
sing for him from that time forth, and granting to his nearest
relations the privilege of carrying the relique in all public

Such is the account given of William Preston of Gorton,
whose arms, as above mentioned, consist of three heads of
unicorns. The obligations in the charter were faithfully carried
out. An aisle was constructed on the south, outside the Lady
Aisle. For the purpose of bringing it into connection with the
church, the wall, in which there were three windows, was
removed; and instead of the windows, three arches were
formed, with pillars corresponding to the fifteenth-century
arches and pillars in the choir. A window was placed in the
east end of the Preston Aisle, and three windows along its south
side. The west end of the aisle opened into the south transept.
The Preston Aisle was fifty-nine feet in length by twenty-four
feet in breadth, by which addition the choir was considerably
enlarged, while the architectural effect, enhanced by a vista of
pillars, was materially improved. In the charter, a monument
to Preston with a brass tablet is spoken of It has long since

About the time of the erection of the Preston Aisle, the
ecclesiastical organisation of St Giles' underwent an important
change. In 1466, a charter of James III., who was still a boy
of thirteen years of age, converted the parish church of St
Giles' into a collegiate foundation, with a chapter to consist of
a Provost, Curate, sixteen Prebendaries, a Minister of the
Choir, four Choristers, a Sacristan, and a Beadle ; all of whom
were exclusive of chaplains ministering at thirty-six altars
throughout the establishment. Altogether, the number of
ecclesiastics would not be less than a hundred, supported by
particular endowments drawn from certain lands, oblations at
the altars, and by donations of food and other articles. In
the transition from the parochial to the collegiate organisation,

Sf Gibes' Cathedral Church.

William Forbes, Perpetual Vicar, was advanced to the Provost-
ship of the new foundation. At his decease he Avas succeeded
by Gawin Douglas, third son of Archibald, fifth Earl of Angus,
and who with poetical tastes did good service to Scottish
literature, which was still in its infancy. His longest poem was
the ' Palace of Honour,' an apologue addressed to James IV.
The most remarkable of his productions was a translation of
Virgil's ^neid into Scottish verse, being the first version of a
Latin classic into any British tongue. Gawin Douglas was
promoted to be Bishop of Dunkeld, and died in 1522.

From his literary attainments, as well as from his social
position while Provost of St Giles', and as being a son of the
Earl of Angus who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh, we are to
imagine Gawin Douglas as a favourite guest at Holyrood,
where James IV. held court with his queen, Margaret, both of
whom were encouratgers of learning and the useful arts. The
art of printing had been introduced by Caxton into England
about 1477 ; but it was unknown in Scotland until it was
introduced by Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar, under the
auspices of James IV. and his Queen, in 1507. The types,
apparatus, and workmen appear to have been brought from
France. Chepman was the moneyed man in the concern, and
from all we can learn, he was a person of extraordinary energy.
The first work attempted was a collection of ancient ballads,
forming a thin quarto volume in black-letter, which appeared in
1508. A fac-simile was reprinted in 1827, under the indefati-
gable editorship of Dr Laing ; but copies of it are exceedingly
scarce. Myllar finally gave up the printing profession, which
continued to be carried on with success by Chepman, in an
establishment at the head of Blackfriars Wynd, High Street.
Walter Chepman became a wealthy and respected citizen, and
with other properties, acquired the estate of Ewerland, near

The wealth, piety, and munificence of Walter Chepman, the
Scottish Caxton, were manifested in various endowments con-

Sf Giles^ Cathedral Church.

nected with St Giles'. On the 21st August 1513, he founded
a chapel, or aisle, in honour of his royal patron and kind
friend, James IV., the Queen Margaret, and their offspring.
In less than a month, James perished at Flodden, 9th of
September 15 13. This unfortunate event did not stop the
completion of the aisle. It projected southwards from the
Preston Aisle, one of the windows of which was appropriated
to form the entrance, and was immediately east of the south

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 1 of 37)