There was a time when I felt very uncomfortable taking photos in Cathedrals and Churches. I guess it was because I saw it as a disrespectful act of gawking, best left outside the Abbey.
However, after many travels watching tourists all over the world snap holy photos I wish I had, I decided to make an attempt at ‘lightening up’.
I was missing out on the photographic preservation of too many amazing memories and sights.
I still look around for ‘no photography’ signs, and I don’t like to take photos if no one else is (I don’t like to be the first rude-y) – or I make sure there is no one else around at all, so I am not disturbing the peace of others.
I never use a flash – even if I need one. I know the flash is not only a disruption, it is also hard on all of the old artifacts. Having said that, I don’t always follow my own rules, as you will see shortly!
St Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the ‘headquarters’ of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. St. Giles himself, oddly enough, was a 7th century French recluse who would become an Abbot.
It wasn’t until this trip that I learned of the ancient ties between the two countries.
St. Giles was founded in 1120, though construction would continue on for an additional couple hundred years. It is said that at one point in the 1600’s, there were 50 alters in the church.
In 1635 William Forbes (perhaps a distant relative of mine!) became the first bishop of the new diocese of Edinburgh. It was at this time that the Church became a Cathedral.
Truly, just being in the Cathedral evoked religious feelings for both my husband and I. More than once I caught him looking up, mouth open in a daze, gawking at the righteous edifice.
The Chapel of the Order of the Thistle is astonishing. Located in a far back (almost secret) corner, entering makes me feel I am somewhere sacred, enchanted, ancient – somewhere I am not supposed to be.
Imagine the medieval hands that crafted the unbelievable detail – the time, skill and backbreaking labour involved to create such a lasting masterpiece – it’s wondrous.
Though there is a sign asking you to refrain from taking photographs, I simply could not help myself.
It was a kind Australian tour guide who first took me into the Knights Chapel (and encouraged me to take some discrete photos) on a visit years ago. I was just as overwhelmed by the incredulity of it the second time around.
The astounding ornate architectural details of the Thistle Chapel are only overwhelmed by the fact that Knights – REAL KNIGHTS still meet regularly in this room – the current ‘order of chivalry’ has been meeting here since 1687.
As we were leaving the Knights Chapel, a monument to Montrose caught my eye. Written in a card on the shrine, was a quote that literally made me weepy.
Perhaps I was weakened by the glory of the ‘Thistle Chapel’, perhaps I connected too deeply with the sentiment of the quote. Indeed I agree with his assertion.
“Blessed is he who has done his best. Honour, to me means more than life.” ~ Montrose
James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, soldier, poet and one of the most romantic figures in British history (so says historytoday.com) is a figure from the past I knew very little about before reading his brief prose, transcribed to note card atop his memorial.
Also from stgilescathedral.org.uk;
Montrose was executed outside St Giles’ at the Mercat Cross in 1650, and his head placed on a spike outside the church. After the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, Montrose’s head and body were exhumed and reinterred in St Giles’ with full honours.
This exemplifies one of the most fascinating aspects of Scottish history; so much of it, can be likened to a Grimm fairytale – beautiful, romantic and horrifying all at once.
Additional photos in the slideshow.