The History of Leith

May 28, 2011

Norman St Giles

The first stone church was probably of Norman architecture, A beautiful Norman doorway, which stood below the third window from the west, was wantonly destroyed towards the end of the eighteenth century. “”This fragment,” says Wilson, “sufficiently enables us to picture the little parish church of St Giles in the reign of David I. Built in the massive style of the early Norman period, it would consist simply of a nave and chancel, united by a rich Norman chancel arch, altogether occupying only a portion of the centre of the present nave. Small circular-headed windows, decorated with zig-zag mouldings, would admit the light to its sombre interior; while its west front was in all probability surmounted by a simple belfry, from whence the bell would summon the natives of the hamlet to matins and
vespers, and with stow measured sounds loll their knell, as they were laid in the neighbouring churchyard.
This ancient church was never entirely demolished. Its solid masonry was probably very partially affected by the ravages of the invading forces of Edward II. in 1322, when Holyrood was spoiled, or by those of his son in 1335, when the whole country was wasted with fire and sword.
The town was again subjected to the like violence, probably with results little more lasting, by the conflagration of 1385, when the English army under Richard 11. occupied the town for five days, and then laid it and the abbey of Holyrood in ashes. The Norman architecture disappeared piecemeal, as chapels arid aisles were added to the original fabric by the piety of private donors, or by the zeal of its own clergy to adapt it to the wants of the rising town. In all the changes that it underwent for above seven centuries, the original north door, with its beautifully receseed Norman arches and grotesque decorations, always commanded the veneration of the innovators, and remained as a precious relic of the past, until the tasteless improvers of the eighteenth century demolished it without a cause, and probably for no better reason than to evade the cost of its repair !”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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