Building begun 1601, opened 1620; possibly incorporating earlier fabric (see Notes). 8-bay rectangular church, fusion of Baroque and gothic survival styles. (Originally 6 bays with aisled nave, doors to N, S and E, and 4-stage square-plan tower to W. Tower and 2 W bays destroyed 1718 (see Notes). Wall built to divide off 4 E (undamaged) bays, which became Old Greyfriars; 2 W bays repaired and 2 new bays built to W (Alexander McGill), to form mirror-image church (New Greyfriars), opened 1722. Old Greyfriars gutted and New Greyfriars damaged by fire 1845. New Greyfriars re-opened 1846 (furnishings by David Bryce). Arcades of Old Greyfriars replaced with single-span open timber roof, and windows filled with ashlar pierced by lancets, David Cousin, 1856-7. Dividing wall and galleries removed, arcades rebuilt, timber ceiling built over 6 original bays and E gable restored, Henry Kerr, 1931-8.) Harled rubble with ashlar dressings. Pitched roof to nave, lean-to roofs to aisles (no clerestorey). Obelisk-topped buttresses between bays and at corners. 2-storey pedimented channelled ashlar porch, arcaded at ground floor to N (McGill, 1722). Base course; moulded eaves course. Pointed-arched chamfered surrounds to windows. Wall monuments.
E ELEVATION: large round-arched window to centre with 5 plate tracery lancets; carved panel with date (1614) above; oculus in pediment above (obelisks to sides and apex); remains of round-arched door opening off-set to right below, now blocked and containing wall monuments. Straight skews and pointed-arched 3-light windows with plate tracery lancets to flanking bays.
N ELEVATION: 2-storey 3-bay porch to centre; blind arch in centre bay with blind window above; 2-leaf timber panelled doors with sunburst fanlights in flanking bays; single windows above (12 pane glazing in timber sash and case windows); 2-leaf timber panelled doors with sunburst fanlights in returns; bell hung in bracketed timber shelter above (1991); decorative cast-iron bracket lamp on E return. Windows in pointed-arched surrounds in 3 bays to right and left: leaded windows to right, plate tracery lancets to left.
W ELEVATION: pedimented centre bay with low piend-roofed semi-octagonal porch (originally principal entrance): 2-leaf timber boarded door in roll-moulded surround to N, blocked entrance to S, window to W); pointed-arched 3-light window with Y-tracery; oculus in pediment above (obelisks to sides and apex). Scrolled curvilinear skews and 2-light windows with Y-tracery above, 12-pane glazing below to flanking bays.
S ELEVATION: 8 bays: wall monuments in outer left bay; outer right bay blank. Pointed-arched windows to 6 inner bays: plate tracery lancets to 3 right windows, small-pane glazing to outer left (lattice above, 12-pane below) Y-tracery to left.
INTERIOR: rebuilt Henry Kerr, 1931-38. 6-bay nave to E: arcaded aisles with octagonal piers; compartmented timber (Californian redwood) ceiling with decorative gilded medallions. Mid 17th century memorial tablet in S aisle to Lady Yester: emblems of mortality and inscription in Artisan Mannerist aedicule, painted and gilded (see Notes). 2 bays to E: timber gallery built under arch to accommodate organ (Peter Collins, 1988) in fine decorative case; rooms in aisles. Communion table and panelling behind, Honeyman, 1912; octagonal 17th century-style pulpit with sounding-board (Honeyman, 1912) now against 3rd S pier. wall monument in S aisle
Statement of Special Interest
A group comprises Greyfriars Church and Greyfriars Churchyard. The church was built in the grounds of the former Franciscan Friary (dissolved 1559), which had been used as a burial ground from 1562; it is said to incorporate material from the former nunnery of St Catherine of Siena (Sciennes). The Masters of Works were Clement Russell (1602), then Patrick Cochrane (1603-4). Greyfriars was the 1st church to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation, serving the SW district of the city; its congregation moved from St Giles. The National Covenant was signed in Greyfriars on 26th February 1638. The building was used as a barracks by Cromwell's troops, 1650-53 (interior and furnishings were destroyed). Gunpowder stored in the tower exploded in May 1718, destroying the tower and damaging the 2 W bays. A fire in January 1845 gutted Old Greyfriars, causing arcades to collapse, and damaging New Greyfriars. Wilson illustrates the E end before the fire. New Greyfriars was re-opened in 1846 with furnishings by David Bryce; Old Greyfriars restored by David Cousin, 1856-7. The Congregations united in 1929, and the 2 churches were joined by Henry Kerr in 1931-8. Stained glass (the first in an Edinburgh Presbyterian church since the Reformation), mainly by Ballantine and Allan (1857), remained largely unaltered. The memorial in the S aisle was brought from Lady Yester's Church in 1938.