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Magdalen Chapel

Cowgate Edinburgh


Magdalen Chapel

Cowgate Edinburgh

The Magdalen Chapel was built by Michael Macquhane and his wife Michael died in 1537 and his wife managed the completion of the chapel in 1542. The Magdalen Chapel was a chapel and Hospital for the poor.  The Incorporation of Hammermen took over the running of the building in 1547. On the plaque above the door show their initials MM. JR. and the date of Janet Rynd's death 1553. The Chapel was a place of worship and also the guild Hall for the incorporation of Hammermen. The Hammermen were metal workers and tradesmen who became the trustees of the Chapel and attached building a hospital, which is now a hostel. Inside the Chapel is an amazing stain glass window which features the Royal Arms of Scotland and the Arms of Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots. Also still in the Chapel is the Deacon of the Hammermen's Guild of Edinburgh chair which was made in 1708. There are many other artefacts from Scottish history on display in the Chapel please arrange a visit as there is much to see.

Magdalen Chapel Cowgate Edinburgh

Magdalen Chapel

Doorway Lintel

The Magdalen Chapel has a carved tablet above the entrance with initials and a date. there were also to carved figures which can be seen inside the chapel, One is of a bedeman (poor man) and the other is a Hammerman  The two figures depict the poor man holding out his hand to the Hammerman for help.

The inscription above the door reads;




Poor man stone carving Madalen Chapel Cowgate Edinburgh
Magdalen Chapel lintel above entrance
Hammermen Stone Carving Magdalen Chapel

Magdalen Chapel

Hammermen Guild Chair.

The Magdalen Chapel Incorporation of Hammermen's Guild Chair. This chair was where the Deacon would sit at meetings of the Hammermen. The Chair was made by Thomas Heron in 1708 at the cost of 33.13 Scots. It was restored in 2000. The Hammermen can trace the Deacons as far back as 1494. The coat of arms of the Hammermen can be seen on the back of the chair, a hammer with a crown above.  

Deacon of Guild's Chair Incorpoation of Hammermen Cowgate Edinburgh

Magdalen Chapel


The Chandelier that can be seen above the Deacon of Guild's Chair in the Magdalen Chapel was presented to the Magdalen Chapel in 1813 by the then Deacon William Armstrong. The Brods are inscribed panels which can be seen around the walls of the Magdalen Chapel and are records of gifts or legacies to the Chapel from the patrons. The first panel recorded in 1555.

Magalen Chapel Brods Painted Panels and Armstron Chandelier

Magdalen Chapel


William Armstrong

William Armstrong Brod Magdalen Chapel Cowgate Edinburgh

Magdalen Chapel

 Edinburgh Coat of Arms

A painting hangs on the wall of the Magdalen Chapel of the Edinburgh Coat of Arms dated 1720. It was not until 1732 the coat of arms were formally granted to Edinburgh. The coat of arms were changed in 1975. The words on the scroll 'NISI DOMINUS FRUSTRA' have been associated with Edinburgh since 1647. The translation is 'Except the Lord in Vain'. A maiden stands to the right and a doe to the left of a Shield with Edinburgh Castle centre. The words on the plaque read; 'Insignia Civitatis Edinensis'  translated means 'Excellent City Edinburgh'. 

Edinburgh Coat of Arms 1720

Magdalen Chapel 

Scottish Reformation Society

 Protestant Institute

There are two large portraits in the Magdalen Chapel, Rev. Dr James Begg and Rev James Aitken Wylie both ministers in the Free Church of Scotland. Rev Begg was the founder of the Scottish Reformation Society and the Protestant Institute. Rev. Wylie author of The History of Protestantism and a professor of the Protestant Institute. The Protestant religion is described by any group or religion that had its basis originally in the Catholic Church.

Magdalen Chapel Rev. Dr James Begg and Rev James Aitken Wylie

Magdalen Chapel,


Founders Panel .

The panel high on the wall of the Magdalen Chapel main hall is a carved panel preserved displaying the crest of the founders surmounted by the crown and hammer. The Hammermen's insignia of their craft. The panel dates from 1624. 

Crest of Founders of Hammermen Cowgate E

Magdalen Chapel,

Stain Glass Window

Inside the Chapel is an amazing stain glass window which features The Lion Rampant, the Royal Arms of Scotland and the

Arms of Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots 1624. The coat of arms of Michael Macquhane founder of the Chapel and the arms of Michael and his wife Janet Rynd. This is the only pre-reformation stain glass in Scotland in tact.  

Stain  Glass Window Magdalen Chapel (2).
Stain  Glass Window Magdalen Chapel (3).


Medical Missionary Society

Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society moved into 39 Cowgate in 1858 which was then owned by the Scottish Reformation Society. The EMMS (Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society and Livingstone Institute) rebuilt in 1877 and operated a dispensary for the local people.  The building occupied  from the corner of Candlemakers' Row to the Magdalen Chapel. Above the entrance on the corner are 13 carved heads

The EMMS building  (Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society and Livingston Institute)Cowgate Edinburgh.jpg
Livingstone Medical Missionary. Cowgate
Carved Heads Edinburgh Medical Missionar

Livingstone Medical Missionary

Memorial Plaque

The Rev. Robert Moffat D.D

Laid this stone 9th June 1877

Robert Moffat was the father-in-law of David Livingstone the African explorer.

Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society and Livingston Institute
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