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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


ECCLESIASTICAL ANTIQUITIES. 383 burnt as a heretic. Only two years before, the Dean of Guild paid 6s. (‘ for papthg of Sant Geile ; ” and for mending and polishing Saint Gelis arme, 12d.,” but his honours were rudely put an end to by the rioters of 1558; and only four years thereafter the Saint’s silver-work, ring, and jewels, and all the vestments wherewith his image and his arm bone were wont to be decorated on high festivals of the Church, were sold by authority of the Magistrates, and the proceeds employed in repairing the Church. Sir David Lindsay deserves more credit than has yet been ascribed to him for the irreverent handling of the saint on this occasion. His Monarchie was finished in 1553, and had then had time to have produced its influence on the popular mind. His description of the honours paid by the citizens of Edinburgh to their Patron Saint is sufEciently graphic ; nor does he hesitate to forewarn the clergy of the recompense that so speedily followed :- Of Edinburgh, the p i t idolatrie, And manifest abhominatioun, On thair feist day, all creature may see, Thay beir ane auld stok image throuch the toun, With talbrone, trumpet, schahe, and clarioun ; Quhilk hea bene usit mony ane yeir bygone, With priestis, and freiris, into processioun, Siclyke, as Bell wes borne throuch Babylone. Fy on yow, freiris ! that usis for to preiche, And dois assist to sik idolatrie : Quhy do ye nocht the ignorant pepill teiche, How ane deid image carvit of ane tre, As it war haly, suld nocht honourit be ; Nor borne on burges backis, up and doun : Bot, ye schaw planelie your hypocrisie, Quhen ye pas formest in processioun. Fy on yow, fosteraria of idolatrie I That till ane deid stok, dois aik reverence,. In presens of the pepill publicklie ; Feir ye nocht God, to commit sik offence I coundl yow do yit your diligence, To gar suppresse sik greit abusioun : Do ye nocht sa, I dreid your recompense, Sall be nocht ellis, bot clene confusioun. The arm bone of the Patron Saint, procured at so great a cost, and heretofore commanding the devout admiration of the faithful, was most probably flung out into the neighbouring churchyard, soon after the discomfiture of his adherents, to mingle unheeded with the ashes of forgotten generations. One fact, however, we learn, from the charter granted by the Magistrates to Preston of Gortoun, as to the appropriation of different parts of the church at that period-viz., that the Lady Aisle, where the altar of the blessed Virgin Mary stood, was part of what now forms the south aisle of the choir, or High Church. To this altar we find one of the earliest recorded gifts bestowed, in the reign of David IL, when the first mention of distinct chantries in St Giles’s Church is found-viz., “Carta to the Lady Altar of St Geille’s, of ane tenement in Edinburgh, given by William Here, burges of Edinburgh.” From the style of architecture which prevails through the older 1 Robertaon’e Index, 1798, temp. David IL, p. 66. The date of the charter is 1365. Regist. Mag. Sigil4 p. 54. The deed of gift to St &therinds Altar in the =me reign is dated 1359.
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384 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. parts of the collegiate church, we feel little hesitation in assigning the erection of the main portion of the fabric to the close of David’s reign, which extended from 1329 to 1371, or to that of his successor Robert 11. It is finished entirely in that simple and comparatively plain style of pointed architecture, which Dallaway designates Pure Gothic, and of which no specimen will be found later than the fourteenth century. It was a period of almost incessant wars, involving the whole nation in misery’for years ; but it was no less characterised by religious zeal, encouraged, no doubt, in some degree by the fact that ecclesiastical property was the only species of possession that had any chance of escaping the fury of the invaders. Edward IIL, however, carried on his Scottish invasion with a ferocity that spared not even the edifices consecrated to religion. In 1355, he desolated the country on to Edinburgh, and laid every town, village, and hamlet in ashes, though not without suffering keenly from the assaults of the hardy Scots. This bloody inroad wag peculiarly associated in the minds of the people with the unwonted sacrilege of the invaders, and as it happened about the time of the Feast of Purification, it was popularly known as the Burnt Candlemas.’ In this desolating invasion, St Giles’s Church, no doubt, suffered greatly; but the misery of the people, and the uncertainty involved in such a state of continual warfare, did not prevent the restoration of their churches, and we accordingly find in the Burgh Records a contract made, in the year 1388, between the Provost and some masons to vault over a part of the church. This was, no doubt, speedily accomplished, as in 1384 the Scottish barons assembled there and resolved on a war with England, notwithstanding the desire of Robert 11. for peace. The result was that the whole town was exposed to another general conflagration by the invading army of Richard II., and the Church of St Giles is expressly mentioned as involved in the general destruction. There is no reason, however, to conclude from this, that the massive walls of the old Gothic fabric were razed to the ground by the flames that consumed the simple dwellings of the unwalled town. The cost of its restoration appears to have been borne by the Government, and various entries occur in the accounts of the Great Chamberlain of Scotland, rendered at the Exchequer between the years 1390 and 1413, of sums granted for completing its re-edification. Nevertheless, the archives of the city preserve authentic evidence of additions being made out of its own funds to the original fabric in 1387, only two years after the conflagration, and an examination of such portions of these as still remain abundantly confirms this idea; the style of decoration being exactly of that intermediate kind between the simple forms of the old nave and the highly ornate style of the choir, which is usually found in the transition from the one to the other. The contract for the additions made to St Giles’s Church from the revenues of the town, and the contributions of its wealthier citizens at the time when the main fabric was left to be restored from the general revenues of the kingdom, while it affords an insight into the progress of the building at that date, cannot but be regarded as a curious proof of that singular elasticity which the Scottish nation displayed during their protracted wars with England; showing as it does, the general and local government vieing with one another in the luxury of ornate ecclesiastical edifices almost as soon as the invaders had retreated acrom the Borders. The agreement bears to be made at Edinburgh, November Ddrymple’e Annals, pp, 237,8.
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