St Cuthbert's Church

(West Kirk)

St. Cuthbert's Church, with the castle behind
©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland

St. Cuthbert's Church, with the castle behind

Lying behind St. John's Episcopal Church on the south side of Edinburgh's Princes Street, bordering the gardens and accessed from Lothian Road, is St. Cuthbert's Church, also known as the West Kirk. This was the original parish church of Edinburgh. When the current church was being constructed (1892-5; by Hippolyte J. Blanc) the foundations of several earlier churches were discovered, perhaps dating back to the 8th Century. The first mention of a church on the site was around 1127, and this may have been founded by King Malcolm III (c.1031-93) and his queen, Margaret (1045-93). The church was badly damaged during a succession of sieges of Edinburgh Castle, the last of which came in 1689 and, almost a century later, it was demolished. The next building, from which only the elegant steeple of 1789 remains today, had suffered when compared to is ornate neighbour St. John's, being described as a "stone box resembling a packing case."

The interior of the church, which was subject to a restoration in 1990, is notable for its sumptuous furnishings and decoration. Of particular interest is a representation of David and Goliath in stained glass by Tiffany of New York and a monument to John Napier (1550 - 1617), the inventor of logarithms, who is buried here. There is also a remarkable communion table and pulpit, fine murals and a mosaic floor. Other stained glass in by the noted Edinburgh maker, Alexander Ballantine (1841 - 1906), and by Douglas Strachan (1875 - 1950).

Influential clergyman Robert Pont (1524 - 1606), physician John Abercrombie (1780 - 1844), poet Thomas De Quincey (1785 - 1859), artist Alexander Nasmyth (1758 - 1840), George Kemp (1795 - 1844), the designer of the Scott Monument, surgeon John Lizars (c.1787 - 1860) and his brother the engraver William Home Lizars (1788 - 1859), all lie in the graveyard.

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