Portal:Scotland/Selected article/Week 27, 2010

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The crown steeple of the cathedral

A prominent feature of the Edinburgh skyline, St. Giles' Cathedral or the High Kirk of Edinburgh is a Church of Scotland place of worship decorating the midpoint of the Royal Mile with its distinctive traditional Scottish crown steeple. The church has been one of Edinburgh's religious focal points for approximately 900 years. Today it is sometimes regarded as the mother church of Presbyterianism.

St. Giles was only a cathedral in its formal sense (ie. the seat of a bishop) for two periods during the 17th century (1635-38 and 1661-1689), when episcopalianism, backed by the Crown, briefly gained ascendancy within the Kirk (see Bishops' Wars). In the mediaeval period, prior to the Reformation, Edinburgh had no cathedral as the royal burgh was part of the Diocese of St Andrews, under the Bishop of St Andrews whose episcopal seat was St Andrew's Cathedral. For most of its post-Reformation history the Church of Scotland has not had bishops, diocese, or cathedrals. As such, the use of the term Cathedral today carries no practical meaning. The "high kirk" title is older, being attested well before the building's brief stint as a cathedral.