Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26440 73816
326440, 673816


James Smith, 1688-90 with later alterations (see Notes). Symmetrical, cruciform, harled-rubble church with distinctive curvilinear ashlar Dutch gable to entrance (S) elevation. Diminutive central Doric-columned portico with dentiled pediment, flanked by pedimented single-leaf timber doors. Above, moulded plaque (see Notes) with escutcheon flanked by tall, round-arched windows; further smaller round-arched windows to left and right. Central, circular window with radial glazing bars; elaborately carved coat of arms above; stag's antlers and cross finial at gable apex. Raised margins. Small single-storey ogee-roofed apse to N elevation. Single-storey lean-to vestries at re-entrant angles.

Fixed, circular and round-arched multi-pane timber windows throughout. Grey Scottish slate to slightly splayed, piended roof. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: wide vestibule with Roman Doric columned screens to E and W. Broad turning stair to left side rising to gallery with 1998 custom-built Frobenius Organ sited between two round-arched windows. Aisled, 3-bay nave with giant Doric columns supporting round-arched arcade; tall pilastered piers flanking larger arches in the transepts. Two timber pulpits to nave (see Notes) and two timber prayer stalls to apse. Circa 1950 decorative scheme with simple white painted walls and light blue timberwork and pews.

BURIAL GROUND: Large, T-plan burial ground occupying ground surrounding Canongate Parish Church and extending to sloping ground to N. Distinguished collection of monuments and burial enclosures, predominantly of 17th and 18th century date (see Notes).

GATES, GATEPIERS, BOUNDARY WALLS AND RAILINGS: square ashlar gatepiers surmounted by stone urns; low, curving coped wall with wrought-iron railings; wrought-iron gates.

Statement of Special Interest

Part of an 'A Group' comprising Canongate Parish Church; Canongate Tolbooth; 167-169 Canongate; 142-146 Canongate, Huntly House; 140 Canongate, Acheson House and the Canongate Burgh Cross which together form the historic core of the former Canongate Burgh (see separate listings).

The Canongate Church, or Kirk, is a post-reformation building of great ecclesiastical and historical significance to the City of Edinburgh. Its distinctively unconventional form, with its striking curvilinear Dutch gable, Doric portico and large central circular window to principal street elevation, adds to its interest. Recessed from the Canongate streetline set behind a low, curving wall, the kirk's 'Latin Cross' plan form is understood to be unique among 17th century Scottish churches. Designed by eminent Scottish architect James Smith, the kirk was constructed to house the congregation which was displaced by King James VII. Its cruciform plan was at odds with the protestant worship of the time, and it has been suggested that conversion to a Roman Catholic church was hoped for (Buildings of Scotland ' Edinburgh p38).

The interior was altered in 1817, when an internal wall was built to completely obscure the apse. Alterations were carried out in 1882 including the introduction of a pipe organ, central pulpit and changes to the E and W facing galleries. The galleries were entirely removed in 1947, with the dummy wall and organ also removed as part of renowned 20th century architect, Ian G. Lindsay's 1946-1954 alterations. Of note is the unusual absence of stained-glass, with clear glazing used throughout. The church has two pulpits; one for preaching and one for reading from the Bible. A fine collection of ecclesiastical artworks are permanently displayed throughout the kirk. The Canongate Kirk is the Regimental Kirk of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Canongate Parish Church Burial Grounds contain a wealth of significant monuments and tombs of prominent and highly regarded 17th and 18th century Scottish dignitaries and academics. Their number include political economist Adam Smith (1723-1790), eminent naturalist Dr John Walker (1730-1803) and poet, Robert Fergusson (1750-1774).

List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey (2007/08). Prior to resurvey, the Burial Ground was listed separately.



Charles McKean with David Walker, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1983), pp21; John Gifford et al, The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh (1991) pp149; E. Patricia Dennison, Holyrood and Canongate - A Thousand Years of History (2005), pp101-110. Further information courtesy of Canongate Kirk ministry.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. 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 subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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Printed: 04/10/2023 04:49