Church of Scotland, 5 Lothian Road, Edinburgh. EH1 2EP
Believed to be the oldest Christian site in Edinburgh (St Cuthbert founded the first church on this site around 670 AD), the present church was built in 1892-94.
Situated near the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road, it today offers a peaceful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city’s main shopping thoroughfare.
The Parish Church of St Cuthbert’s attracts worldwide visitors: some as a pilgrimage to the most ancient religious site in Edinburgh; some to see where Agatha Christie was remarried in 1930; others to see the church’s stunning stained glass, including the famous Tiffany window with the image of David heading off to face Goliath.
In the surrounding graveyard can be found such varied people as Thomas De Quincey, writer of Confessions of an English Opium Eater; William Macao, first naturalised Chinese citizen of Scotland; and John Napier, father of logarithms.
Church of Scotland, 13 George Street, Edinburgh. EH2 2PA
Situated at the east end of George Street, St Andrew's & St George's West offers a peaceful environment within the city centre.
A thriving community within the church offers a large number of events throughout the year including a Christian Aid sale, Christmas Tree Festival, study and social groups, inter-faith events and craft and recycling campaigns. The building also acts a Fringe venue.
The church’s Undercroft Café is a popular spot for a coffee and cake break. Staff comprise a mix of volunteers, trainees and professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. In 2016 Port of Leith Housing Authority awarded the café the Most Supportive Employer of the Year award.
Church of Scotland., High Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1RE
Primarily a working church, St Giles’ is also a popular visitor attraction for worldwide tourists. Situated on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, the church was founded in 1124 and in the 16th century became the focal point of the Scottish Reformation. Today it is regarded as the Mother Church of World Presbyterianism.
The building has played host to many significant events, including a secret meeting of the Auld Alliance (Scotland and France) in 1384 to plot a raid into England. The following year the English King, Richard II, sent a large army north to destroy St Giles’ and other Scottish churches. Much of the building survived but black marks from the flames could still be seen on pillars until the 19th century. By 1390 St Giles’ was restored with help from Edinburgh merchants.
When the Scottish Parliament abolished papal authority in 1560 and decreed that Scotland was now a Protestant country, St Giles’ 400 years as a Catholic church officially came to an end. The stained-glass windows were removed and the church silver melted down and sold to raise funds for redecoration.
By 1872 St Giles’ was in a state of disrepair. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, William Chambers set about restoring the tired interior - centuries-old fire damage was scrubbed from the pillars, the walls were plastered and the floors were re-laid with decorative tiles. The addition of the Thistle Chapel in 1911 transformed the cathedral. Designed by Robert Lorimer, the chapel contains a wealth of detail, both religious and heraldic, and much of it peculiarly Scottish, including angels playing bagpipes.
Today the church continues to play an important role in the cultural life of the city and nation, playing host to a wide variety of concerts, lectures, exhibitions and civic ceremonies throughout the year.
Church of Scotland, Dell Road, Edinburgh. EH13 0JR
Colinton Parish Church was founded in 1095 by Prince Ethelred, son of King Malcom III and Queen Margaret; the early history recorded on a wooden board at the South entrance to the Sanctuary. The present building was built in 1908 to the design of Sydney Mitchell, a prominent church architect.
There are a number of significant features within the church including nine stained glass windows representing the Fruits of the Spirit by James Ballantyne FSA; the War Memorial, Christ in Majesty, by Tom Whalen; the white marble baptismal font with its carved wooden cover and the Herriot memorial tablet on the South wall, which is dated 1593.
On display in the vestibule are the names of all known clergy back to pre-Reformation times, including Dr Balfour, who was the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson. As a child, Stevenson spent many holidays at the manse with his grandparents. He wrote a number of poems about the manse, churchyard and Water of Leith, including one entitled The Swing, a replica of which can still be seen in the Manse garden.
Today, Colinton Parish Church strives to be a church for people of all ages, aiming to offer an unconditional welcome to all. The congregation is a large extended family with an extensive youth and children’s ministry and a developing programme of pastoral care.
Church of Scotland, Cramond Glebe Road, Edinburgh. EH4 6NS
There has been a kirk at Cramond for 700 years. The tower is the oldest part of the current building, dating back to the 15th century.
A board hanging in the kirk contains the names of the ministers of Cramond Kirk since the Reformation. A notable trio served in the 18th century: William Hamilton (1694-1709) and his sons, Robert and Gilbert, all of whom became Moderators of the General Assembly, and Robert Walker (1776-1784) who became known as the Skating Minister. His portrait by Henry Raeburn can today be seen in the National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound.
In the Cramond Gallery section of the building a small blue velvet-covered chair can be seen which Queen Victoria sat upon whilst attending a service at Cramond Kirk in 1860.
There are some stunning examples of stained glass within the church: a memorial to those connected with the parish who died in World War I, and four saints who have influenced Scottish religious life (St Andrew, St Cuthbert, St Columba and St Margaret).
Church of Scotland, 10 Comely Bank Road, Edinburgh. EH4 1DW
St Stephen’s welcomes people of all ages and from many walks of life. A family church, they offer a number of activities for all ages, from clubs for young children to more mature members.
The church serves the community of Edinburgh and Comely Bank in a variety of ways, including mentoring young people at Broughton High School, Monthly Lunch Club for the retired and food collections for the Edinburgh Food Project.
Church of Scotland, Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh. EH1 2QQ
Based in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Greyfriars Kirk has stood in the same spot since 1620. Today, as well as being home to an active worshipping community, it is also a major venue for the arts, a beautiful space for hire, and a popular tourist destination.
Greyfriars 400th anniversary is on Christmas Day 2020 – see website for a list of events.
The church has played an important role in many key historical events: in 1562 Mary Queen of Scots granted the land for use as a burial ground; The National Covenant was signed here in 1638; and during Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland from 1650 – 1653, Greyfriars was used as barracks.
Today, the kirk is a popular tourist attraction – every year thousands come to visit the grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful Skye Terrier who watched over his masters grave for 14 years. It is also a popular stop on the Harry Potter trail as it is said that JK Rowling took inspiration from some of the names on graves for her characters – including that of William McGonagall, also known as Scotland’s worst poet!
Church of Scotland, 12 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh. EH12 5AA
Modelled on the 17th century Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, this church dates from 1875. Designed by Edinburgh architects Peddie & Kinnear, the building cost £17,750 and originally seated 900 people.
In 1970 the neighbouring congregation of Belford Parish Church (now Belford Hostel) united into Palmerston Place Church, followed in 1976 by Lothian Road Parish Church (now the Filmhouse).
Today, Palmerston Place Church is a forward thinking church, guided by its aim of “Bringing Christian Worship, Fellowship and Service to the heart of everyday life”.
© Copyright: Peter Stubbs
Church of Scotland, Kirkgate, Leith, Edinburgh. EH6 6BJ
South Leith Parish Church originally began as a chapel dedicated to St Mary which was erected in 1483 and dedicated in 1487.
The church has played an important part in Edinburgh’s history: firstly in 1544 when it was used as a refuge when Leith was attacked as part of the Rough Wooing when Henry VIII sought to exert control over Scotland; and later in 1547 when the church was again involved in the struggle between the invading English and the Scots when it became a makeshift prison for Scottish nobles.
Today, this beautiful building offers much more than Sunday services – they provide a community cafe, boys brigade, foodbank, gardening team, and many more services to the Leith community. South Leith also have their own band – Kailyard, who as well as participating in the weekly services, perform concerts for other churches and community groups in a mixture of Christian and secular music.