Greyfriars Kirk

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Greyfriars traces its origin to the south-west parish of Edinburgh, founded in 1598. In the wake of the Scottish Reformation, the grounds of the abandoned Friary were repurposed as a cemetery, in which the current church was constructed between 1602 and 1620. In 1638, National Covenant was signed in the Kirk. The church was damaged during the Protectorate, when it was used as barracks by troops under Oliver Cromwell. In 1718, an explosion destroyed the church tower. During the reconstruction, the church was partitioned to hold two congregations: Old Greyfriars and New Greyfriars. In 1845, fire ravaged Old Greyfriars. After its reconstruction, the minister, Robert Lee, introduced the first organ and stained glass windows in a Scottish parish church since the Reformation. In 1929, Old and New Greyfriars united and the church was restored as one sanctuary. In the following years, the depopulation of the Old Town saw Greyfriars unite with a number of neighbouring congregations.

The church of Greyfriars is a simple aisled nave of eight bays; the style is Survival Gothic fused with Baroque elements. The church initially consisted of six bays and a west tower. After the explosion of 1718 destroyed the tower, Alexander McGill added two new bays and a Palladian north porch to create one building divided into two churches of four bays each. After it was gutted by fire in 1845, David Cousin rebuilt Old Greyfriars with an open, un-aisled interior. Between 1932 and 1938, the interior and arcades were restored by Henry F. Kerr. Notable features of the church include historic stained glass windows by James Ballantine; the 17th century monument to Margaret, Lady Yester; and an original copy of the National Covenant of 1638.

Since the 18th century, the congregations of Greyfriars have been notable for their missionary work within the parish. This continues to the present day through the church's work with the Grassmarket Community Project and the Greyfriars Charteris Centre. Greyfriars holds weekly Gaelic services, maintaining a tradition of Gaelic worship in Edinburgh that goes back to the beginning of the 18th century.



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Founded: 1602
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Hashim Fakhreddin (8 months ago)
A really nice and tranquil graveyard. The church in the centre is beautiful. Apparently some or the names on some of the tombstones inspired the names of some Harry potter characters, especially Tom Riddle. However it felt weird seeing so many people going to these tombstones and taking photos, feels kind of disrespectful to the actual people buried there. You can find lots of people walking their dogs here which is adorable.
Valerie R.W (8 months ago)
Is there such a thing as having a favorite graveyard? This is mine!?? Such a stunning place, I’m not sure what else to say about it! The tombstones date very far back and are literal works of art. It’s peaceful, quiet, and apparently very haunted. You can also visit famous graves like the ones who inspired JK Rowling for Harry Potter characters, as well as the very popular Greyfriars’ Bobby.☺️ A must-see, in Edinburgh.
Nate Heater (8 months ago)
As far as cemeteries go, it’s not terribly packed, which lends itself to a leisurely exploration if that’s your thing. A wide variety of headstones, styles, and years will keep you interested, though many are challenging to decipher, as you’d expect. From Bobby’s to Alexander Henderson, there’s a wealth of fascinating stories to uncover (just not literally, that’s illegal).
Vicky Dunbar (9 months ago)
We started in Greyfriars as part of a Harry Potter tour and ended up coming back to see more. There are some beautifully decorated old graves here and of course the graves of John Gray and his faithful companion Bobby. Wonderful old crypts giving a real authentic flavour of old Edinburgh. You could spend a lot of time here.
Salim Ece (10 months ago)
I wouldn’t have guessed I say such a thing for a graveyard but this place is amazing! It is relaxing to walk around the graveyard and sitting down on the grass. And of course there is also excitement of following the steps of J.K. Rowling! Tip for the future explorers, Thomas Riddell’s grave is on the other side of the wall.
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