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.


Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25727 73590
325727, 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 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


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to HIGH STREET AND PARLIAMENT SQUARE, ST GILES (HIGH) KIRK

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 08/12/2023 22:03