The History of Leith

November 29, 2004

Our Parish Churches: South Leith

THE earliest centre of religious life in our Leith district was at Restalrig, where a church or chapel of some kind has existed from very remote times. Legend tells us that among those who came to Scotland with St. Rule, the founder of the first Christian church at St. Andrews, was St. Triduana, who had consecrated herself to the service of God. To avoid the attentions of Nectan, King of the Picts, who ruled from 706 to 732, and who greatly admired the beauty of her eyes, the saint plucked them out and sent them to him skewered on a thorn, after which she was allowed to live unmolested, and spent the rest of her days in devotion and service at Restalrig, where she is said to have died and been buried.

Her tomb, and holy well adjacent, became the most noted places of pilgrimage in the Lothians, and many reputed miracles were wrought by the beneficent influence of the Blessed St. Triduana, especially on those deprived of sight or who were afflicted with disease of the eyes. Through the offerings of the faithful a chapel is said to have arisen over her grave, a little church, rude and primitive in construction, after the manner of the ancient chapel now uncovered within the foundations of the great Abbey Church of Holyrood.

We pass from the unstable ground of legend to the sure foundations of history when we come to the De Lestalrics and the Norman church they built at Restalrig before the days of Alexander III. That church would consist of nave and chancel, and be very similar to the Norman church at Duddingston built about the same time (1143). This Norman church of the De Lestalrics became the parish church of both Leith and Restairig, the latter place, strange as it may seem to us to-day, being then the larger township of the two.

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