The Parish Church of St Cuthbert was probably founded in the 7th century and it once covered an extensive parish around the burgh of Edinburgh. The church's current building was designed by Hippolyte Blanc and completed in 1894.
St Cuthbert's is situated within a large churchyard that bounds Princes Street Gardens and Lothian Road. A church was probably founded on this site during or shortly after the life of Cuthbert. The church is first recorded in 1128, when David I granted it to Holyrood Abbey. At that time, the church covered an extensive parish, which was gradually reduced until the 20th century by the erection and expansion of other parishes, many of which were founded as chapels of ease of St Cuthbert's. St Cuthbert's became a Protestant church at the Scottish Reformation in 1560: from after the Reformation until the 19th century, the church was usually called the West Kirk. After the Restoration in 1660, the congregation remained loyal to the Covenanters. The church's position at the foot of Castle Rock saw it damaged or destroyed at least four times between the 14th and 17th centuries.
The current church was built between 1892 and 1894 to replace a Georgian church, which had itself replaced a building of uncertain age. The building was designed by Hippolyte Blanc in the Baroque and Renaissance styles and retains the steeple of the previous church. Features include stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Douglas Strachan, and Ballantyne & Gardiner; mural paintings by Gerald Moira and John Duncan; and memorials by John Flaxman and George Frampton. The church also possesses a ring of ten bells by Taylor of Loughborough. The church has been a Category A listed building since 1970.
Seven of the church's ministers have served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland during their incumbencies, including Robert Pont, who held the role on six occasions between the 1570s and 1590s. The church's present work includes ministries among homeless people and Edinburgh's business community.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.