The Origins of St Giles'

There is record of a parish church in Edinburgh by the year 854, served by a vicar from a monastic house, probably in England. It is possible that the first church, a modest affair, was in use for several centuries before it was formally dedicated by the bishop of St Andrews on 6 October 1243. The parish church of Edinburgh was subsequently reconsecrated and named in honour of the patron saint of the town, St Giles, whose feast day is celebrated on 1 September.


That St Giles, a 7th century hermit (and, later, abbot) who lived in France, became the patron of both town and church was probably due to the ancient ties between Scotland and France.


According to legend, Giles was accidentally wounded by a huntsman in pursuit of a hind and, after his death in the early 8th century, there were dedicated to him hospitals and safe houses for cripples, beggars and lepers were established throughout England and Scotland within easy reach of the impoverished and the infirm. St Giles is usually depicted protecting a hind from an arrow, which had pierced his own body, a fine relief of which rests in the tympanum over the west (main) doors of the Cathedral.