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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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transept, of which exteriorly it seemed an enlargement. This
handsome aisle became a family chapel and place of burial.
Walter Chepman died in 1532, and here in the vault below he
was buried.

The disturbances consequent on the change of religious
sentiment in Scotland, began to break out in Edinburgh in
1556, and came to a head in 1558, when a procession of clergy
on the anniversary of St Giles, ist September, was riotously
dispersed by the populace. An efhgy of the saint was torn in
pieces; and soon afterwards, in the national convulsion, the
clerical community of this ancient church disappear, while their
means of livelihood are confiscated. As concerns the deplen-
ishing of the church, the civic authorities interfered. By the
help of sailors from Leith, with ropes and ladders, the altars
were taken down, and cleared out. All the gold, silver, and
other valuables were carefully catalogued and secured, as may
be seen from existing town records. After being stripped of its
silver mountings, the arm-bone of St Giles, which about a
hundred years previously had been thought so very precious,
was, as is alleged, thrown into the adjacent burying-ground. It
was a clean sweep. Excepting perhaps a pulpit or. a reading-
desk, and a few benches, nothing was left in the old edifice.

Under the settlement of affairs at the Refonnation, 1560,
the collegiate character of St Giles' Church disappeared, and it
resumed its original condition of a parish church. John Knox
was constituted pastor, with a suitable stipend from the city
funds. In starting afresh after the recent clearing out, the



Sf Gi/es' Cathedral Church.



church must have presented an empty, desolate appearance.
At that period there were no fixed pews. The seats were
chairs or wooden stools, provided chiefly by worshippers for
their own accommodation. The bulk of the people stood, and
they would gladly stand for hours listening to their favourite
preacher. John Knox often preached, it is said, to three thou-
sand persons. The work he went through was immense. He
preached twice on Sunday, and three times every other day of
the week, besides attending to other clerical duties. His only
assistant was a ' Reader.' The choir of the church with its
extensions on the south we have referred to, formed the place
of assemblage ; but the voice of the preacher rang through the
nave and far withdrawing aisles, which were left open, and
formed a convenient lounge for the citizens. That is the
picture we are to form of the interior of St Giles' Church
immediately after the Reformation.

Knox occupied a conspicuous position when acting as chap-
lain at the funeral of the * Good Regent,' James Stewart, Earl
of Murray, who was assassinated at Linlithgow, 23d January
1569-70. The occasion is memorable in the history of St
Giles'. 'Upon Tuesday, the 14th of February,' says M'Crie,
' the Regent's corpse was brought from the palace of Holyrood,
and interred in the south aisle of the collegiate Church of St
Giles'. Before the funeral, Knox preached a sermon on these
words : " Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Three
thousand persons were dissolved in tears before him while he
described the Regent's virtues and bewailed his loss. Buchanan
paid his tribute to the memory of the deceased by writing
the inscription placed on his monument with that impressive
simplicity and brevity which are dictated by genuine grief

The death of Murray led to a keen contest as to who should
be Regent. The choice fell on the Earl of Lennox, paternal
grandfather of the young king, James VL This gave offence
to Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange, who had hitherto belonged
to the king's party, and as such was Governor of Edinburgh



S^ Giles' Cathedral Church.



Castle. He now changed sides, went over to the party of the
exiled Mary Queen of Scots, and commenced a fierce civil
war, in which he fortified Edinburgh, and on the 28th March
157 1, placed a military force on the roof and steeple of St
Giles' Church, to keep the citizens in awe. The craftsmen
of the city, however, were not easily daunted. They broke
into the church, and to bring matters to a crisis, proposed
to pull down the pillars which sustained the roof. Alarmed
for their safety, Kirkaldy's men, on the 4th June, began to
make holes in the vaulted ceiling, from which they fired
down with muskets on the crowd of assailants. Calderwood,
the church historian, says they * made the vaute like a riddle
to shoot through ; ' which gives us an impressive idea of this
warlike strife inside a church. Kirkaldy withdrew his forces
in July 1572. Under the merciless Regency of Morton, he
was hanged at the Cross of Edinburgh, 3d August 1573.

The roof of the church being duly repaired after the late
hostile visitation, things went on in their usual quiet way.
But St Giles' was destined to suffer infinitely more damage
than anything that had been done to it by the operations of
Kirkaldy of Grange — damage that has taken three centuries
to remedy, and is not remedied yet. Previous to the death of
Knox, the magistrates and council began to section the church
of St Giles' into separate divisions. This proceeding was
commenced within ten years after the Reformation. The
first division we hear of was for the Tolbooth Church, situated
at the south-west corner of the edifice. 'On Sunday, 21st
September 1572,' says M'Crie, ' Knox began to preach in
the Tolbooth Church, which had been fitted up for him.'
On Sunday, 9th November following, he preached in the
same place at the installation of Lawson, his colleague and
successor. 'After the sermon,' adds M'Crie, 'he removed
with the audience to the larger church,' that is, to the choir,
which luckily escaped sectionising. This was John Knox's
last sermon. On quitting the church leaning feebly on his



Sf Giles' Cathedral Church.



stafif, he was attended down the street to his house by his
audience, to take the last look of their pastor. He died on
the 24th November, and was buried in the churchyard of St
Giles'. The spot cannot now be identified. It is near to the
equestrian statue of Charles II. in the Parliament Square.

In May 1590, James VI. and his young queen, Anne of
Denmark, ceremoniously visited St Giles' Church, when there
were thanksgivings for their marriage and safe arrival in
Scotland. The choir, which was fitted up for the occasion,
henceforth became a place of public worship for the king and
queen, and from this time we begin to hear of a royal pew,
or * loft,' with seats for the officers of state, the judges, and the
magistrates of the city. James sometimes went to St Giles' for
the purpose of delivering public orations ; he did so on Sunday,
3d April 1603, to bid farewell to the citizens on his departure
to take possession of the throne of England.

We now arrive at the important events in the history of
St Giles', consequent on the introduction of Episcopacy into
Scotland by James VI., and his successor, Charles I., in the
early part of the seventeenth century. Hitherto, Edinburgh
and the adjacent district of country had ecclesiastically per-
tained to the diocese of St Andrews. Charles I. now resolved
to form Edinburgh into a bishopric, by royal charter, and to
constitute St Giles' the cathedral of the new diocese. The
proceedings of ^Charles on this occasion are faithfully detailed
by Maitland in his valuable History of Edinburgh (i vol. folio
1754). The facts of the historian are drawn from city records,
and are narrated as follows :

' King Charles I., by his Charter of the 29th September, anno
1633, having founded a Bishopric in Edinburgh, appointed for
its Diocess all Parts besouth the Frith of Forth, belonging to
the Arch-bishopric of St Andrews, in the County of Edin-
burgh, Constabulary of Haddington, and Shires of Linlithgow,
Stirling, and Berwick, and Bailiwick of Lauderdale ; with all
the Rights, Powers and Privileges of a distinct Bishopric or



Sf Giles^ Cathedral Church.



Diocess, in as full and ample a Manner as any other Bishopric
in Scotland ; and appointed St Giles's Church in Edinburgh for
its Cathedral; with all the Rights, Liberties and Immunities
belonging to a Cathedral Church, and this new Erection to be
denominated the Bishopric and Diocess of Edinburgh ; to
have and injoy all the Honours, Dignities, Privileges, Author-
ities and Jurisdictions, with all the Liberties and Immunities
injoyed or possessed by any Diocesan or Bishop within Scot-
land, and to be a Suffragan to the Arch-bishop of St Andrews.

'And the Bishop to have Precedence of all other Scottish
Suffragans in Parliament, Councils and publick Conventions,
immediately after the Archbishop of Glasgow. And, for the
good Government of this new Bishopric, by the Charter of
Foundation, it was to consist of a Bishop, a Dean, and twelve
Prebendaries, to whom and their Successors the King granted
the Churches of St Giles, Grayfriars, Trinity College, and that
of the South-east Parish in Edinburgh, with those of Holyrood-
house, Dalkeith, Dunbar, Haddington and Tranent in the
County of East Lothian ; Liberton in Mid-Lothian ; Falkirk in
Linlithgowshire ; and that of the Town of Stirling in Stirling-
shire, with their appurtenancies ; with a Power to the Bishop to
have a Seal like other Bishops, to transact his Affairs with;
besides, another Seal for him and the Chapter, for transacting
the Business of the Chapter, to be called the Seal of the
Chapter of the Bishopric of Edinburgh : And to prepare
St Giles's Church for the Reception of the new Establishment,
the King sent a Letter to the Common Council of Edinburgh ;
of which the following is a Copy :
"Charles R.

" Trustie and weill belovit we greit you weill.

"Wheras of oure Princelie Motive and Zeale for the
Advancement and Government of the Churche of that oure
Kingdome, we have, by the Advice of the chiefest of oure
Clergie, thairof, erected at our Chairges, a Bishopric of new,
to be callit the Bishopric of Edinburgh, whairby none of your



iS/ cues' Cathedral Church.



Priviledges or Liberties ar anie wayes to be infringed, but
rather preservit and increased : And wheras to that Purpose,
it is verie expedient, that Saint Geille's Church (designed by us
to be the Cathedral Churche of that Bishopric) be ordered, as
is decent and fitt for a Churche of that Eminencie, and accord-
ing to the first Intentioun of the Erectors and Founders thairof ;
which was to be keiped conforme to the Largeness and Con-
specuitie of the Foundatioun and Fabrick : and not to be
indirectlie parcelled and disjoinit by Wallis and Partitiounes,
as now it is, without anie Warrant from anie of oure Royal!
Predecessoures.

" Oure Pleasure is, that with all Diligence, you cans raze to
the Ground the East-wall of the said Churche ; and sick-lyke,
that you cans raze to the Ground the Wester-wall therin,
betwixt this and Lambas insewing ; at or before which Tyme,
we require you to caus finish the new Tolbuith, to the effect it
may be for the Use of oure Churche and uther Judicatories and
Commissiounes, as the Tyme and Occasioun shall require.
We bid you fairweill, from oure Court at Whitehall, the 1 1 th
October 1633."

'In the year 1636, the Town Council, on the tenth Day of
February, ordered one of the Bailiffs, and one of the Clerks of
Edinburgh, to desire James Hanna, the Dean of St Giles's
Church, to repair to Durham in the Northern Part of England,
to take a Draught of the Choir of the Cathedral Church in that
City, in order to fit up and beautify the Inside of the Choir of
St Giles's Church after the same Manner.'

' Surely,' continues Maitland, 'never was the Church Hierarchy
by a Bishop of so short Duration, as this of Edinburgh ; for it
was erected in the year 1633J and subverted aimo 1639, by the
Abolishment of Episcopacy in Scotland, both by the Parliament
and General Assembly.'

The change in the ecclesiastical organisation of the country
miglit in time have been accepted and tolerated but for
the indiscreet zeal of Charles I., who, by an imperious com-



Sf Giles' Cathedral Church.



mand, ordered the English Service-book to be read in every
parish church. This brought matters to a crisis. The day on
which the Book of Common Prayer was first attempted to be
read in the Church of St Giles', was Sunday, the 23d of July
1637. The officiating clergyman was the dean, Mr James
Hanna ; and on his intimating that the collect for the day was
that of the seventh Sunday after Trinity, a popular outbreak
took place, and a strenuous female, uttering some violent
reproaches, threw the stool on which she had been seated at
the dean's head. The bishop from the pulpit endeavoured to
calm the uproar which ensued, but in vain. The magistrates
also made efforts to allay the disturbance, but failed to do so ;
and they were obliged to clear out the multitude by main
force. The uproar of course arose from dislike to the Anglican
liturgical service, which differed from the Book of Common
Order hitherto in use in St Giles', as indeed throughout the
country generally since the time of John Knox. There seems
to have been a notion among the rioters that Popery was about
to be introduced along with the Anglican service, and hence
the intensity of the excitement. As regards the Collect for the
day which had been intimated by Dean Hanna, there is nothing
in it to give offence to any one.-^

The scene of this extraordinary tumult was in the south
transept, or the middle church, as some historians call it ;
the choir, at the time, being in course of preparation for
the cathedral service. The spot on which Dean Hanna
was assailed was, as nearly as can be defined, near the base
of the stone arch on the left on entering the transept from
the Preston Aisle. Consequent on the tumult and the circum-
stances that ensued, St Giles' ceased to have the status of a

^ The collect is as follows : ' Lord of all power and might, who art the
author and giver of all good things, graft in our hearts the love of Thy
name, increase in us true rehgion, nourish us with all goodness, and of
Thy great mercy keep us in the same ; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.'



S/ Giles' Cathedi'al Church.



cathedral ; but this was resumed on the establishment of
Episcopacy in 1662. It remained so until the Revolution of
1688, when Alexander Rose, the last of the race of prelates,
was ejected. The building is still popularly designated St
Giles' Cathedral, or St Giles' Cathedral Church. As is seen by
our quotation from Maitland, Charles I. commanded the removal
of the cross partition walls in St Giles', in order to adapt it as a
cathedral — which was in effect a kind of restoration. On the
resumption of Presbytery in 1639, the walls were speedily re-
erected, and the building relapsed into the unsightly condition
it has retained until our times.

Spottiswood, in his History of the Church and State of Scot-
land (1655), gives the following list of the bishops of Edinburgh
until his time :

' The first Bishop of Edinburgh was William Forbes, Doctour
of Divinity, one of the Preachers in Edinburgh (before,
Principal of the Marischal Colledge of Aberdene), a very worthy
Person. His Works shew him to have been a man of vast
Learning and sound Judgment. He sate but a little while, and
died at Edinburgh about the year 1634.

' Upon his death, David Lindsay, Bishop of Briechen, was
translated to Edinburgh. The Fury of the rude Multitude fell
heavy upon this Bishop, even to the manifest danger and
hazard of his Life, upon the first reading of the Book of
Common Prayer in Edinburgh, July 1637. He was thrust out,
with the rest of the Bishops, by the Covenanters, 1638.

' George Wishart, Doctour of Divinity, was, upon the Restitu-
tion of the Hierarchy, anno 1662, promoted to the Bishopric
of Edinburgh. This worthy man was, 1638, Preacher at Leith,
and for his Loyalty had very hard measure from the Cove-
nanters, being thrice plundered of all that he had, and thrice
imprisoned. But being delivered from thence, he went beyond
Sea with the Marquess of Montrose, 1646.^ He died at

1 Wishart was a man of considerable erudition. He wrote a memoir of
Montrose in Latin, which has been translated into English.



Sf Giles' Cathedral Church.



Edinburgh, anno 1670. Upon his death, Alexander Young,
Archdeacon of Saint Andrews, was preferred to the Bishopric
of Edinburgh.'

To proceed with our account of the Cathedral Church,
It has been stated that the ancient entrance porch was
among the parts spared at the conflagration of 1385. This
porch was on the north side of the building, and was con-
nected with the nave, so as to form a convenient entrance
from the public thoroughfare. The arch, rounded in form,
was of an ornate Norman style. The archivolt in several
divisions exhibited figures of animals and grotesque heads,
along with crenellated and chevron mouldings. By an act
of barbarism, this ancient arch, a precious relic of the twelfth
century, was taken down and utterly destroyed in the course
of some repairs on the building in 1797 or 1798. Fortunately,
before its removal, a representation of it was taken by an artist,
of which an engraved copy appears as a frontispiece to Dr
Laing's laborious work on St Giles',

Besides the choir, which formed the parish church, there
was at first only the Tolbooth Church, as a subordinate place
of worship in St Giles'. It derived its name from including a
portion of the Tolbooth, or Town-House of Edinburgh; the
original meaning of the word Tolbooth being a place for
receiving rents or duties imposed by the civic authority.
Even before it became a church, this part of St Giles', along
with a portion of the nave, had been used for meetings of
Parliament. In the upper part of an adjoining building now
removed were the Justiciary Court-room, and the Council
Chamber for the city, connected with which was the Town
Clerk's office. The Tolbooth Church, it must be understood,
had no connection with the tall dark building in High Street,
latterly known as the Tolbooth, or common prison, which was
removed within our recollection.

In the palmiest of its pre-Reformation days, St Giles' had
from these circumstances a certain dash of secularism. It was



Sf Giles^ Cathedral Chttrch.



in some sort a public Exchange. From the want of a place of
resort for men of business, the church offered a means of
meeting to persons who had to enter into or discharge con-
tracts, to pay accounts, and so forth ; for which miscellaneous
purposes the high-altar of St Giles', or some other altar in the
church, was a stipulated place of meeting. In such acts of
desecration, one is in a small way reminded of the practices
which were so objectionable in the Temple of Jerusalem.

After the clearance at the Reformation, St Giles' was still
haunted for business transactions. The south transept became
the favourite resort ; and when the Earl of Murray's monu-
mental tomb was set up, it answered as well as the old high-
altar at which to make bargains or to discharge obligations.
From a popular belief that Duke Humphry of Gloucester,
youngest son of Henry IV., was buried in Old St Paul's, there
arose the jocularity that persons who strolled about in St Paul's
for want of a dinner, were said to dine with Duke Humphry.
A similar pleasantry prevailed concerning the tomb of the Earl
of Murray. Sempill, a Scottish poet, refers in verse to the
spot as a convenient lounge for impecunious and hungry idlers.
One of them with sad internal commotion pathetically says :

* I dined with saints and gentlemen,

Ev'n sweet Saint Giles and the Earl of Murray.'

Long before the Reformation, St Giles' had been freely
used as a place of interment. In most cases the interments
were in graves below the floor, as was not unusual in old
edifices of this kind, and is still in a limited way the case in
Westminster Abbey. Persons of distinction were entombed
in one or more vaults in the southern aisles. Here the Earl
of Murray, as above related, was interred in 1569-70; his
representative is the present Earl of Moray. The next
individual of note laid in this quarter was John Stewart,
fourth Earl of Athole, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, who
died in 1579. His title was conferred on John Murray, Earl



Si Giles' Cathedral Church.



of Tullibardine, who married his grand-daughter. The repre-
sentative of the family is now the Duke of Athole. A third
'distinguished person entombed near the spot was John
Graham, third Earl of Montrose, High Treasurer, and after-
wards Lord High Chancellor. On the accession of James VI. to
the throne of England, he was appointed Viceroy in Scotland,
presided at the parliament at Perth, 1606, and died in 1608.

The grandson of this last-mentioned personage was James
Graham, fifth Earl, created Marquis of Montrose, who dis-
tinguished himself as a military commander in the cause of
Royalty during the Civil War. Montrose's history is well
known. Captured and brought into Edinburgh, he was
condemned, and executed 21st May 1650. His body was
dismembered. His limbs were sent to different parts of
Scotland, his head was stuck on a pike on the Tolbooth or
common prison, while his body was buried in the Borough-
muir under the gallows. Here, two days afterwards, some
adventurous spirits in the cavalier interest contrived to take
away the heart of Montrose, and convey it to Margaret, Lady
Napier, wife of Alexander, first Baron Napier of Merchiston,
and daughter of John, fourth Earl of Montrose. The heart of
the great hero being duly embalmed, was inclosed in a gold
casket for careful preservation. There is a portrait of Lady
Napier with this interesting object by her side. It was the
destiny of the casket to undergo a number of romantic
adventures at home and abroad, which we have not space to
relate. Ultimately, when in the custody of a person in France,
it disappeared during the revolutionary troubles, and has not
since been heard of.

After the Restoration, the scattered remains of Montrose
were collected with tokens of respect, and deposited in the
Abbey of Holyrood. Thence they were brought by a solemn
funeral procession, at which the magistrates of Edinburgh
assisted, and entombed in St Giles', 14th May 1661. The
ordinary belief is that his tomb was in the vault underneath



Sf Giles' Cathedral Church.



the aisle of Walter Chepman. Mark Napier, in his Memoirs
of Montrose, states that he was interred in the vault of his
grandfather, the Viceroy of Scotland. Our own opinion coin-
cides with the ordinary belief, that Montrose was buried in the
vault beneath Chepman's Aisle, where possibly his grandfather
had been previously interred. The descendant and represent-
ative of the great Marquis is the present Duke of Montrose.
The burial of persons of note in St Giles' did not cease till past
the middle of the eighteenth century.

In process of time, as Edinburgh grew in population, more
parish churches were required. The proper course would
have been to build new churches within the parishes to which
they nominally pertained. Instead of this, a plan was adopted
of utilising St Giles', by cutting it up into sections, and calling
each section a parish church. Hence, the grouping of churches
for different congregations in this unfortunate building. A
number of offices for secular affairs got edged out, and the
general condition of the building was more spiritualised, though
in a manner not a little repugnant to the senses. At the middle
of the eighteenth century, the list of churches in the edifice
stood as follows. The Choir or High Church in the east.
The Tolbooth Church in the south-west. The Old Church in
the middle and part of the south side. The Little Kirk, or
Haddo's Hole, in the north-west. Such name was familiarly
given to it in consequence of an apartment above it having
served as a prison to Sir John Gordon of Haddo in 1644,
previous to his trial and execution. The allocation into these
several places of worship left two portions of the building
undisposed of. These were the Preston Aisle, which was used
for meetings of various kinds ; and the dark central space under
the spire with the north transept. This last-mentioned portion
was finally fitted up as the Police Office. We remember St
Giles' in this condition in 1818.

If neither comfortable nor pleasing to the eye, the various
churches grouped in St Giles', possessed in former times an



S^ Giles^ Cathedral Church.



amusing difference of character. * The High Church,' says
the author of the Traditions of Edinburgh, 'had a sort of
dignified aristocratic character, approaching somewhat to



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 2 of 37)