St Mary's Cathedral - Notable Cathedrals

St Mary’s three gothic spires can be seen from anywhere in the city.  Editorial credit: Colin Dewar /
St Mary’s three gothic spires can be seen from anywhere in the city. Editorial credit: Colin Dewar /

Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, St Mary’s Cathedral is the Episcopal Church in the city. The cathedral was constructed during the late-19th century in West-End, New Town. The church is the Episcopal see of the Edinburgh Bishop, one of the seven bishops of the Episcopal Church. Sir George Scott designed the cathedral in the Gothic architectural style.


After the Glorious Revolution in 1689, Presbyterianism was restored in the national Scotland church leaving the Episcopalians without a church in Edinburgh. The Episcopal started worshiping in an old mill located in the Carrubber which is near the current site of the Old St Paul’s mission. The mill acted as the pro-cathedral church until the 19th century when the St Paul’s Cathedral of York-place served them.

Mary and Barbara Walker funded the original construction project of the church in 1873. The spinster sisters owned the Drumsheugh estate plus they resided in the Easter Coates house which is in the northern part of the cathedral, and it survives to date. Mary and Barbara are the granddaughters of Rev Walker, the Episcopal reverend of the Meldrum Church.

Sir George Scott designed the church and the Duke of Queensberry and Buccleuch laid the foundation stone on May 21, 1874. A bottle containing coins, newspaper, Bord’s and Oliver Almanac, the Post Office directory, and a copy of the Trust-Deed was placed inside the foundation stone. While preparing for the opening of the cathedral, a congregation of worshipers was formed to worship in a temporary church erected on the place currently occupied by the song school. The nave was opened on January 25, 1879, and daily service was introduced. Edward Morgan started constructing the twin spires named after the Walker sisters in 1913. Charles Oldrid designed these spires. The reredos was carved by Mary Grant and designed by John Scott.

Unique Features

One of the artifacts in St Mary’s Cathedral is the pew belonging to Sir Walter Scott which arrived at St Mary's Cathedral in 2006. The bench was first used in St George’s chapel before being transferred to St Paul’s church in 1932 when the two amalgamated. The music school located in the cathedral’s compound was established to educate their choirboys, but later it was opened to everyone. The central Cathedral tower has ten original tuned bells. These tuned-bells were gifts of James Montgomery, the first Dean of the cathedral. St Mary’s has three gothic spires which are from anywhere in the city.


By 1985 it became clear that the over a century old cathedral fabric was in dire need of restoration. Therefore the St Mary’s Cathedral workshop was established. The officials spread the restoration project over a period of 25 years. The experts finished the restoration of the stonework of northern Aisle, Chapter-house, and the southern Transept during the first 20 years. The tarmac area on the northwest corner of the church was grassed and then landscaped before being opened to the public as an open green-space. Although historic Scotland supports the restoration project, they get a third of their funds annually from donations from different sources.


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