Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Museum Edinburgh

Greyfriars Kirk 

Greyfriars Kirk takes its name from the Franciscan friary which was previously on this site. Greyfriars Kirk  building was completed in 1620 the first church to be constructed in Scotland following the Reformation. The signing of the National Covenant took place in Greyfriar’s Kirk on 28 February 1638. In a field nearby, in the 18th century 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned. A section of this field was incorporated into the churchyard as vaulted tombs and the area became known as the Covenanters' Prison. You will see enclosed vaults and metal fenced cages called mort safes as a deterrent to grave robbers taking the bodies from their resting place to use in the medical school for autopsy and scientific experiments. The famous grave robbers of the time were (Burke and Hare). Greyfriar’s Cemetery is said to be haunted by the ghost of 'Bloody' George Mackenzie who was buried here in 1691. His Spirit is said to cause bruising, bites and cuts on those who come into contact with the spirit or touch his tomb. Some visitors have reported feeling strange sensations. Take the ghost tour and find out for yourself. Don’t miss visiting Greyfriars Museum for the history and mystery of the graveyard and Kirk. 

Greyfriars kirk Edinburgh

Greyfriars Tolbooth 

Highland Kirk Museum

There are many things to see and stories to be read in the museum like the an American flag that hung in the White House which was gift to the church as Greyfriars Kirk and the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in the New World took place on Christmas Day 1620. Not to forget the famous dog Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Museum and shop are open with free admission. There are guided tours available. The Notice board on entry to Greyfriars Graveyard read; In Greyfriars Church the national covenant was adopted and signed 28th February 1638. In the churchyard are objects of historical interest such as The Martyrs’ Monument towards the north east and the Covenanters’ Prison towards the south west also The graves of many Scotsmen and Citizens of Edinburgh

National Covenant

 (The Presbyterians)

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

The National Covenant signed in Greyfriars on the 28th February 1638 promised to defend Presbyterianism from intervention by the crown. Presbyterians in Scotland agreed to renew the King’s Confession of 1581, (basically a promised before God that they would accept the true religion and oppose Roman Catholicism) with two extra parts. These were a legal section listing over sixty acts of Parliament most of which were against Roman Catholicism. The Covenant was signed by almost all the people and Nobles of Scotland.

National Covenant 1638 Greyfriars Museum

Covenanting Swords

The swords of Robert Trail minister of Greyfriars 1649 -1660, who accompanied, James Graham Marquis of Montrose, to his execution in 1650 and Daniel MacMichael a covenanter shot and killed at Durisdeer, Dumfriesshire in 1685.

Robert Trail became minister of Greyfriars in 1949. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1660 and later banished to Holland for refusing to sign the oath of allegiance following the restoration of Charles II.

Seal of Queen Victoria 1897

Seal of Queen Victoria attached to a parchment appointing William Montagu Hay 10th Marquess of Tweeddale as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1897. The office of Lord High Commissioner is one of the oldest in Scotland. It goes back to the early 17th century when James VI became James I of the United Kingdom in 1603. At the Union of the Crowns the King’s court moved to London and it was not so easy for him to attend the General Assembly, but a close relationship with the Church of Scotland was essential for the monarch and continues to be so today. The document states under the Treaty of Union, Queen Victoria’s seal is used in lieu of the Great Seal of Scotland.

Mary Queen of Scots  Greyfriars Monastery 

Original Monastery Doorway

The grounds of the Franciscan monastery passed into the possession of Mary Queen of Scots after the Scottish Reformation of 1560. Mary then granted the grounds to the Edinburgh town council for the grounds to be use for burials. The original door lintel to the monastery can still be seen in the Greyfriars Graveyard.

Mary Queen of Scots Greyfriars Museum.JP
Monastery Door Lintel

Greyfriars Bobby Portrait

Greyfriars Museum Edinburgh

Oil painting of Greyfriars Bobby in Greyfriars Museum, dated 1867. Painted by John McLeod who was born in Golspie, Sutherland in 1812. Greyfriars Bobby is an Icon of Edinburgh and Scotland and is known worldwide. The Statue stands at the junction of Candlemakers' Row, George IV Bridge and Greyfriars Place. Greyfriars Bobby's grave is at the gates to Greyfriars Kirk Museum and Burial Ground.

United States Flag 

Greyfriars Museum Edinburgh.

On Christmas Day 1620 the Kirk of the Greyfriars officially opened as a place of worship. In the same year fleeing persecution and seeking the pursuit of their religion free from interference by the state, the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts and established the colony In 1976 the United States of America celebrated the bicentenary of its establishment as an independent republic. At that time to mark the coincidence of these two dates, the US Consulate in Edinburgh gave the flag which at one time had flown above the White House in Washington DC to the people of Greyfriars recognising the part that both communities have played in the struggle for religious freedom.

First Stars and Strips on Whitehouse Wah

Sir Walter Scott 

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

This tablet was made and erected to the memory of Sir Walter Scott on his centenary by the young men of this kirk in which he himself worshipped as a young man.

Walter Scott Plaque  Greyfriars Kirk.JPG

Lady Yester Memorial 

Grayfriars Kirk Edinburgh

In memory of Margaret Lady Yester, by whose benefaction the church of Lady Yester was built in High School Wynd Edinburgh in 1644. This was demolished and a new church was built in 1803.

See map by William Edgar 1765. (K) Marks the Lady Yester Kirk.

The above tablet formally erected in Lady Yester’s church was transferred here when that church and parish were united with Greyfriars church and Parish in 1938.

Lady Yester. Memorial isle Grayfriars Kirk Hall Edinburgh

Greyfriars Kirk Communion Table

St Francis Stigma

reminder of the friars is a modern representation of the crossed hands of St Francis, with the stigmata, which stands above the cross behind the communion table at the east end of Greyfriars Kirk Hall.

Communion Table Greyfriars Kirk Edinburg

Peter Collins Organ Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Peter Collins died in 2015.  He was a famous builder of organs, in his 40 years as a craftsman he built organs all over the UK and Europe. The Greyfriars organ was built in 1990 in conjunction with the late Michael Chibbett who was then the organist in Greyfriars Kirk. The Peter Collins organ is a magnificent musical instrument which overlooks the hall of the Kirk.

A must see when in Edinburgh.

Greyfriar Kirk Organ by Peter Collins
Greyfriar Kirk Kirk Organ Grayfriars Edinburgh

Flodden Wall In Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard

The Flodden wall can be seen through Greyfriars Graveyard. The old city wall was built for protection from the English invaders (1513) after the Scots Army suffered their heaviest defeat in battle to the English and where King James IV died in battle, King James IV was the last monarch to die in battle. 

Greyfriars Graveyard Flodden Wall Remains Wall Remain

Edinburgh Town Guard

The City Guard’s main duty was to protect the city and maintain public order. Formed in 1679 with 40 men. Always present at civic gatherings and were led by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.  The Town Guard House was situated in the middle of the High Street west of the Tron Kirk in line with New Assembly Close. Information found on “the plan of the City and Castle of Edinburgh by William Edgar Architect 1765″. Records held in the National Library of Scotland.

The Town Guard were disbanded in 1817 the last Captain of the Guard being James Burnet. 

The Edinburgh City Guard re-enactment group. The group recreate the Town Guard for ceremonies and recreate battles such as the Battle of Prestonpans annually. To find out more or join the Guard contact chairman, Arran Johnston (Ensign):  arran_johnston@hotmail.com.

Edinburgh Town Guard Greyfriars Highland Kirk
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© 2020 by All About Edinburgh. 

started 16 / 03 /2017