Gillis Centre

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Gillis Centre
St Margaret Chapel, Gillis Centre by Kim Traynor Geograph 1978427.jpg
Front of Gillis Centre showing St. Margaret's Chapel
Gillis Centre is located in Edinburgh
Gillis Centre
Gillis Centre
Location of Gillis Centre within Edinburgh
Coordinates: 55°56′06″N 3°12′02″W / 55.934924°N 3.200504°W / 55.934924; -3.200504
Location Edinburgh
Country UK
Denomination Roman Catholic
Former name(s) St. Margaret's Convent, Gillis College
Founded 1834 (1834)
Founder(s) Bishop Gillis
Dedication St Margaret of Scotland
Status Conference and Accommodation Centre
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Category A listed building[1]
Designated 14 December 1970[1]
Architect(s) James Gillespie Graham and E. W. Pugin
Style Gothic Revival
Completed 1863
Parish St. Peter's, Morningside
Deanery St Giles' City of Edinburgh
Archdiocese Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh
Province St. Andrews and Edinburgh

Gillis Centre, formerly Gillis College, is a complex of buildings situated close to the city centre of Edinburgh, Scotland. The history of the site can be traced back to the 15th century. The original building housed many literary figures of the eighteenth century, from 1834 it served as a convent and from 1986 to 1993 it was Gillis College, the seminary for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. It currently serves as a conference and residential centre for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.[2]

Early history[edit]


The site of the present Gillis Centre was originally known as 'Whitehouse' and gave its name to the lane that runs alongside it, Whitehouse Loan. The house had many literary and academic occupants and must have had a connection with the University of Edinburgh, because it was there that some of the university's leading figures wrote various pieces of literature. Such as Principal Robertson who wrote his The History and Reign of Charles V in 1769.[3] In 1756 John Home wrote his tragedy Douglas there and in 1783 Dr. Hugh Blair wrote his famous Lectures.[4]

St. Margaret's Convent[edit]

The ecclesiastical history of the site goes back to 1834 with the founding by Bishop James Gillis of the first post-Reformation convent in Scotland. For over 150 years it was well known in Edinburgh as St Margaret's Convent and School under the ministry of the Ursulines of Jesus.[5] In the 1830s, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was not yet established. James Gillis as Apostolic Vicar of the Eastern District of Scotland wanted a convent and school built there to cater for the Catholics in Edinburgh. The Ursulines were asked to start a convent and funds were provided for a chapel. In 1863, this chapel went on to house a relic, given to them by Bishop Gillis, of St. Margaret of Scotland.[4]


The chapel dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland was designed by James Gillespie Graham (probably under significant influence from A.W.N. Pugin) and opened in 1835. From the same period, the gatehouse and convent building were also designed by James Gillepsie Graham, and Edward Welby Pugin (son of A.W.N. Pugin) designed the school building which was completed in 1863.[1]

In fact, the buildings were meant to form part of a quadrangle of buildings, of which the convent was only the west side of a much larger projected scheme.[6]

Gillis College[edit]

In 1986, the Ursulines left and the convent was bought by the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and became Gillis College, named after its founder Bishop Gillis.[7] It was the senior seminary of the archdiocese for the training of students for the priesthood and accepted seminarians from the dioceses of the Province of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In 1993, the theological college was closed and the remaining students were sent to Bearsden, Glasgow, where the Scottish bishops had decided to have a National Seminary of Scotland, called Scotus College.[8]

Gillis Centre[edit]

After the college closed the complex became the Gillis Centre, the Archdiocesan offices and agencies moved into the building and work began on developing a conference centre with residential accommodation.

The Gillis Centre provides a range of office accommodation for various diocesan commissions, bodies and organisations. In addition, it houses the theological library from the former Gillis College.

On 16 November 2008, the relic of St. Margaret of Scotland that was given to the chapel, when it was part of the Ursuline convent, by Bishop Gillis, was returned to St. Margaret's Memorial Church in Dunfermline, Fife.[9]



External links[edit]