The History of Leith

March 1, 2005

Saints and St Giles

Saints on the North screen (left to right)

St Simon
Simon was an apostle who is traditionally said to have been martyred in Egypt. The legend states that he was sawn in half lengthways by heathen priest, and so he is often shown with a long saw. This story may be behind his role in St Giles as patron saint of weavers, although St Maurice is their more traditional patron saint.

St Anne
St Anne was the mother of Mary and is traditionally shown in art teaching her daughter to read or sew. As a result of the latter, she is shown in St Giles as the patron saint of tailors. Feast day; 26th July.

St Joseph
Patron Saint of Carpenters because he was, of course, a carpenter. He is only rarely seen in art without Mary or Jesus.
Feast days: 19th March and 1st May.

St John the Evangelist
Of all the evangelists, Scotland is said to have held John in particular esteem. (The early Celtic Church had links with the Eastern Church of Constantinople, which favoured St John rather than St Peter). St John is particularly well represented in St Giles. He is shown in the second window in the Moray aisle as well as appearing on the North Screen, His symbol of an eagle appears with those of the other gospel-makers and high up on the West wall of the Chepman aisle is a stone carved with his eagle, carrying in its beak the first words of his gospel. The lectern is also in the shape of an eagle. Finally, one of the brightest windows in the Cathedral is the second window in the Albany Aisle, illustrated the revelation of St John.

St Bartholomew
Bartholomew, the apostle, was said to have been flayed alive before being beheaded. His most usual emblem is the flaying knife and he is regarded as a patron saint for all who work in skins in St Giles he is shown as the patron saint of glovers. Feast day; 24th August.

St Clement
St Clement was a Pope around the end of the first century who was exiled to the Crimea and forced to work in a mine. He was killed by being thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck. I have no idea why he is shown at St Giles as the patron saint of skinners and tanners, which are traditionally some of the trades associated with St Bartholomew.

St Antony
St Antony of Egypt was a hermit around the end of the third century. In the twelfth century, the Order of Hospitallers of St Antony was founded in Constantinople, where his relics where said to lie. The Hospitallers rode about Europe ringing small bells to attract alms. These bells were considered holy, and were hung around the necks of animals to protect them from disease. By special privilege this Orders pigs were allowed to roam freely in the streets, and this is why St Antony emblems were to become a pig and a bell (as shown in St Giles) and St Antony was to become the patron saint of butchers. Also of Wine sellers
Feast day: 17th January

St Eloi
St Eloi was a seventh century goldsmith who then became a priest and bishop, known for both his fine preaching and his craftsmanship. He is the patron of metal workers, and of goldsmiths, blacksmiths and farriers in particular and his principal emblem is a horseshoe. Feast day: 1st December.

St Crispin
This is the St Crispin mentioned in the famous Agincourt speech in Shakespeares Henry V. In the third century, he and his brother crispinian exercised their trade of shoemaking so as to avoid living from the alms of the faithful. This makes them the patron saints of cobblers and shoemakers. Feast day: 25th October.

St Cuthbert
St Cuthbert was a great religious figure of the seventh century. He began as a monk of the Celtic church in Melrose, carried out missionary work in the Border regions and rose to be bishop of Lindisfarne after Roman church customs became the norm. His greatest popularity was reached in death, when, eleven years after his burial his body was found to be incorrupt. Indeed it remained in such a remarkably good condition that during the Reformation his shrine was dismantled, but nobody desecrated his body, which had been brought to Durham just before the year 1000. Feast day: 20th March
other saints currently represented in St Giles

St Columba
The simplest versions of the St Columba legend have him as a great monastic leader of the sixth century who left Ireland and established lona, from where he converted some, much, or all (depending on the story) of mainland Scotland to Christianity. He is a favourite saint in Scotland, Ireland and Northumbria. Feast day: 9th June

St David of Scotland
1085-1153. He was the sixth and youngest son of Malcolm III and St Margaret of Scotland. He was brought up in the Norman court of England and through his Saxon marriage was an English Earl. Many of his changes and improvements in Scotland to the Law, the burgh and the mercantile systems were based on Norman systems, although he strongly opposed English Church and State claims to Scotland. His many ecclesiastical foundations (Holyrood, the Border abbeys, etc) cost much, and it was his own pious life that truly gained him respect as a holy man. He was chaste both in marriage and widowhood, he said the divine office, confessed and communicated weekly and gave abundant alms, often in person. Even on his deathbed he said numerous psalms. Feast day: 24th May.

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