Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh
The first church to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation, Greyfriars was completed in 1620. It has had an eventful history.
A central event was the signing here in 1638 of the National Covenant by Scottish Presbyterians who objected to the role of the monarchy in the affairs of the church. Ironically the churchyard was used as a prison for 1,500 Covenanters captured at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679. They were held captive here, in the open, without effective shelter from June until November. Cromwell’s soldiers were billeted here in 1650 and badly damaged the interior. Later in 1718, gunpowder, stored in the church tower, exploded causing extensive damage. In 1845 the church was gutted by fire and it was not until the 1930s that it was restored to its present condition. The large cemetery was for years the burial place of many of Edinburgh’s most notable citizens. It was also a place from which freshly dead bodies were stolen and then sold to the university medical school. Look out for the metal cages or mortsafes once used to protect bodies from being dug up.
April to October: Monday to Friday 10.30am – 4.30pm, Saturdays 10.30am – 2.30pm. November to March: Thursdays 1.30pm – 3.30pm.