St. Giles' Cathedral
For more than 600 years, the crowned spire of St. Giles’ Cathedral has been a prominent feature of Edinburgh’s skyline.
St. Giles’ was founded as a Catholic place of worship in 1120 and switched to Protestantism after the Scottish church severed ties with Rome and the pope in 1560. It was recognized as a cathedral from the 17th century. The landmark spire was a late 15th-century addition.
St Giles’ Cathedral is the official Church of Scotland and the Mother Church of Presbyterianism. It’s named after the patron saint of beggars and disabled people.
The most elaborate part of the cathedral is the Thistle Chapel, the spiritual home of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. This is an order of chivalry with roots in the Middle Ages. Take your time to study the decorative and highly detailed interior with its oak carvings, ornate stonework and distinctly Scottish features such as angels with bagpipes.
The cathedral has many memorials to distinguished Scots and Scottish soldiers. They include a bronze memorial to the writer Robert Louis Stevenson and a statue to the Protestant reformer John Knox.
Try to time your visit with a musical performance. The cathedral has an extensive schedule of lunchtime concerts, organ recitals and choral pieces. Many are free. Visit the cathedral’s website for details.
Volunteer guides are available to answer questions and can conduct free guided tours on request. If you want to take photographs inside the building you’ll need a permit. These can be obtained for a small fee at the information desks at the Thistle Chapel and the main West Entrance.
St. Giles’ Cathedral is located on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s open to visitors every day of the year except after the mid-morning service on Christmas Day, December 26, and January 1 and 2. There are different opening times at different times of the year; for details check the cathedral’s website.