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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


E CCL ESIA S TICA L A NTIQ UITIES. 379 Edinburgh, in the reign of David I. and long afterwards, was, as we have already shown, no more than an assemblage of rude huts, constructed in full anticipation of their falling a prey to the torch of the southern invaders. Froissart represents the Scots exclaiming more than two centuries later, “ thoughe the Englishe brinne our houses, we care lytell therefore; we shall make them agayne chepe ynongh! ” Nevertheless, it is to David I. that Edinburgh owes its earliest improvement and much of its future prosperity. He was the first monarch who made the Castle of Edinburgh his chief residence; and by his munificent monastic foundation in its neighbourhood, he made it the centre towards which the wealth of the adjacent country flowed, and thereby erected it into the capital of the Lothians centuries before it assumed its position as the capital of the kingdom. It cannot, therefore, surprise us to discover evidence of the rebuilding of the Parish Church of Edinburgh about the period of his accession to the throne ; and we accordingly find that some beautiful remains of the original edifice, somewhat -earlier in style than the oldest portions of the Abbey Church of Holyrood, were only destroyed about the middle of last century. The annexed vignette, copied from a very rare print, represents a beautiful Norman doorway which formed the entrance to the nave of St Giles’s Church on the north side, and was only demolished about the year 1760. It stood immediately below the third window from the west, within the line of the external wall. access to it was obliterated in the alterations of 1829. This fragment sufliciently enables us to picture the little Parish Church of St Giles in the reign of David I. Built in the massive style of the early N0rma.n period, it would consist simply .of a nave and chancel united by a rich Norman chancel arch; altogether occupying only a portion of the centre aisle of the present nave. Small circular-headed windows, decorated with zig-zag mouldings, would admit the light to its sombre interior; while its west front was in all probability surmounted by a simple belfry, from whence the bell would daily summon the natives of the hamlet to matins and vespers, and with slow measured sounds toll their knell as they were lain in the neighbouring churchyard. A plain round archway that had given This ancient church was never entirely demolished. Its solid masonry was probably very partially affected by the ravages of the invading forces of Edward IL, in 1322, when Holyrood was spoiled; or by those of his son in 1335, when the whole country was wasted with fire and sword. The town was again subjected to the like violence, probably with results little more lasting, by the conflagration in 1385, when the English army under Richard IL occupied the town for five days, and then laid it and the Abbey of Holyrood in ashes. The Norman architecture disappeared piece-meal, as chapels and aisles were added to the original fabric by the piety of private donors, or by the zeal of its own
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380 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. clergy to adapt it to the wants of the rising town. In all the changes that it underwent for above seven centuries, the original north door, with its beautifully recessed Norman arches and grotesque decorations, always commanded the veneration of the innovators, and remained as a precious relic of the past, until the tasteless improvers of the eighteenth century demolished it without a cause, and probably for no better reason than to evade the cost of its repair. As the population of the town increased, and it advanced in wealth and importance, altars and chapels were founded and endowed by its own citizens, or by some of the eminent Scottiah ecclesiastics who latterly resided in Edinburgh; so that St Giles’s had increased to a wealthy corporation, with numerous altarages and chaplainries, previous to its erection into a collegiate church by the charter of James 111. in 1466. As usual with all large churches, St Giles’s presented internally the form of a cross, with the central tower placed at the junction of the nave and choir with the transepts. Externally, however, this had almost entirely disappeared, owing to the numerous chapels and aisles added at various dates, and it has only been restored by sacrificing some of the most interesting and unique features of the ancient building. Previous to the alterations of 1462, notwithstanding the general enlargement of the church by the addition of one or more rows of chapels on either side of the nave, no portion of the central building appears to have been elevated into a clerestory; and in the nave this addition forms one of the modern alterations effected in 1829. Before that recent remodelling, the nave was only elevated a few feet bigher than the aisles, and was finished in the same style in which the north aisle still remains, with a neat but simple groising springing from the capitals of the pillars, and decorated with sculptured bosses at the intersections. The south aisle of the nave is evidently the work of a later date. The rich groining and form of its vaulting afford an interesting subject of study for the architectural chronologist, when compared with the simpler design of the north aisle. We may conclude, with little hesitation, from the style of the former, that it was rebuilt in 1387, along with the five chapels to the south of it described hereafter ; and, indeed, the construction of the light and beautiful shafts from which their mutual vaultings spring, almost necessarily involved the demolition of the old aisle. Over the vaulted roof of the centre aisle, in the space now occupied by the clerestory, a rude attic was erected, which included several apartments, latterly used as the residence of the bell-ringer Mitchell with his wife and family, who ascended to their elevated abode by the antique turnpike thaE formerly rose into an octagonal pointed roof of curious stonework, near the central tower. The arches of the tower still remain to show the original height of the nave ; and a careful inspection of the choir proves, beyond all doubt, that it underwent a similar alteration by the construction of a clerestory, at the same time that it was lengthened, by the addition of the two eastmost arches, about the middIe of the fifteenth century.’ In some of the larger Gothic churches, the architects are fouud to have ingeniously aided the perspective of (‘ the long drawn aisles,” by dirninishing the breadth of the arches aa they approach the east end of the choir, where the high altar stood, thereby adding to its apparent extent. In St Giles’s Church, however, the opposite is found to be the case. The two eastmost arches are wider and loftier than the The choir was probably lengthened only to the extent of one arch ; but the removal of the e& wall would newsmuily involve the rebuilding of the second.
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