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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 14/12/1970


  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 25727 73590
  • Coordinates325727, 673590


1385-1410 possibly incorporating earlier fabric and with significant later alterations and additions, including exterior re-facing in smooth ashlar by William Burn, 1829-33 and Thistle Chapel addition by Robert Lorimer, 1910 (see Notes). Outstanding Scottish ecclesiastical building, constructed on a monumental scale and dominated by landmark tower with crown spire carried on eight flying butresses. Rubble core surrounded by Late-Gothic exterior, characterised by pointed-arch windows with flowing tracery; cusped stone cresting and crocketed pinnacles; buttressed clasping corner angles throughout.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: W ELEVATION: symmetrical 5-part entrance elevation with large, deeply recessed and intricate carved doorway to centre with tympanum featuring relief carving of St Giles and 3 gablets above. Vestry to S flank with later ogee-headed door and window. TOWER: single Y-traceried openings with deep, chamfered splays. 3 closely-spaced, pointed lancets with cusped heads to each face. Eight flying buttresses springing from corners and centres of the sides support pinnacled crown spire with eight-banded antae carrying pointed finial and metal weathervane. THISTLE CHAPEL to NE corner: High-Gothic, tall and narrow with 3-bays and 3-sided apse. Heavy, sloping plinth with small lucarnes at regular intervals. Deep, gableted buttresses rising to parapet level. Single lancet to central bay of apse with canopied figure of St Andrew breaking parapet.

Statement of Special Interest

Ecclesiastical building in use as such. St Giles High Kirk, also known as St Giles Cathedral, is an outstanding example of Scottish ecclesiastical architecture, built on a monumental scale and incorporating pre and post-reformation fabric, providing a rich and complex phased period of construction and re-construction spanning many centuries and many renowned hands. The 'Mother Church of Scottish Presbyterianism' occupies a critical location at the centre of Parliament Square on Edinburgh's High Street. Its central tower with crown spire is one of the most instantly recognisable features of the Edinburgh skyline. It was the only parish church within the city walls throughout the Middle Ages.

The first church on the site was probably begun around the time of the founding of the burgh during the mid 12th century. It was rebuilt following a fire in 1385 as an aisled cruciform church with 5-bay nave and 4-bay choir. The Moray Aisle to the South of the nave was added soon after. The Albany Aisle to NW of nave was built in 1401-1410. The Preston Aisle was begun by the Town Council in 1455 while the Chepman Aisle was completed in 1513. St Giles was briefly translated to Cathedral status on the Orders of Charles I in 1633. The crown spire was rebuilt by John Mylne in 1648. The building was reconstructed and re-faced in 1829-33 by William Burn - most of the exterior was recased in smooth ashlar, except the central tower. The arcade of the nave was heightened, a clerestory added to make it more 'Cathedral-like', while the SW chapels were demolished. Further restoration by William Hay and George Henderson in 1870-83 including new North and West doors, a screen in the North transept and a pulpit and font sculpted by John Rhind. The Kirk contains a notable and extensive collection of monuments dedicated to renowned Scots, predominantly of the 19th century. The exceptional stained glass throughout the kirk is predominantly by James Ballantine and Sons (carried out by them between 1847 and 1894). The richly decorative Thistle Chapel by Robert Lorimer, added to the SE of the choir in 1910, contains a wealth of intricately carved woodwork including large and numerous ceiling bosses, steepled and crested canopies rising above the stalls to each side. The chapel also contains intricate wrought iron work by Thomas Hadden and fine heraldic stained glass by Louis Davis to Lorimer's designs.

Part of High Street A-Group. List description updated at resurvey (2007/08).



R R Anderson 'Observations on the structure of St Giles' Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 16, (1882). J C Lees, 'St Giles', Edinburgh: church, college and cathedral from the earliest times to the present day' (1889). E Gordon 'A short history of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh' (1954). Rev H C Whitley, 'The pictorial history of St. Giles' Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh' (1967). John Gifford et al, 'Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh' (1991) p102-118. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992). St Giles Cathedral Official Guidebook (2004). Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 10.05.2007)

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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