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St. Giles Cathedral

Edinburgh Category Historic Sites
St. Giles Cathedral image

Over the last hundred years or more, St Giles' has hosted important events including state occasions and services of national thanksgiving.

A new restoration programme began in 1977. In addition to essential repairs to roof, stone and glass, the interior has been lightened, the focus of worship moved from the east end to a new sanctuary in the middle of the church ("the crossing") and a magnificent new organ installed. Space has been converted from old cellars and crypts for meeting and eating. Much remains to be done.

The Order of the Thistle is Scotland's great order of chivalry, and membership is considered to be one of the country's highest honours. The Order is traditionally given to Scots or people of Scots ancestry, who have given distinguished service. Appointments are entirely in the personal gift of the Sovereign.


The Order of the Thistle has roots in the Middle Ages, but the presentday order was largely created in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland (King James II of England). The nave of Holyrood Abbey was adapted as its chapel, but in 1688 the Abbey was ransacked by the Edinburgh mob, furious at King James' Roman Catholic allegiance. After that, the Knights of the Thistle had no chapel of their own for over 200 years.

The Thistle Chapel was designed by Robert Lorimer and finished in 1911. It contains stalls for the 16 knights, the Sovereign's stall and two Royal stalls. The chapel contains a wealth of detail, both religious and heraldic, and much of it peculiarly Scottish, including angels playing bagpipes.

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