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Edinburgh Buildings

The architectural history of Edinburgh began with the Castle, and here appropriately we find in the little Norman Chapel of St. Margaret the oldest surviving building.

Dating from the eleventh century, it preserves for us, along with parts of the aisle walls of Holyrood Abbey, a record of the Norman culture which spread to Scotland at the time of the conquest of England.

The greater part of the Nave of Holyrood and its splendid west door represent well the next phase of mediaeval European architecture at its best.

Later examples, in the more distinctly Scottish manner of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, are found in the beautiful interior of St. Giles' Cathedral, particularly in the Preston Aisle and in Trinity College Church (1462), once the glory of Edinburgh, which was pulled down to make way for the railway station and partially re-constructed in Jeffrey Street.

The very beautiful panels from this building, now preserved in the picture gallery at Holyroodhouse, may help the student to realise the character of the decoration, which enriched the buildings of this time.

The secular architecture of the pre-Reformation period within the burgh has almost all disappeared, with the exception of doors in Blackfriars Street and Boswell's Court, and curious corbelled building in Trunk's Close, near John Knox's House.

Part of a military building of this time is preserved in David's Tower in the Castle, which will be better understood after a visit to the well-preserved example around which Craigmillar Castle has grown.

Later examples of the period are the much restored banqueting-hall of the Castle and the north-western tower of Holyroodhouse.

Little remains of the fine buildings of the sixteenth century beyond Bailie MacMorran's House in Riddle's Court, Gladstone's Land, almost opposite, with its arcaded ground storey, John Knox's House, the Canongate Tolbooth, and part of Huntly House.

Another building, less often seen by visitors, is the Magdalene Chapel in the Cowgate, just west of George IV Bridge. This preserves many interesting features in panelling, ironwork, and stained glass, and is easily reached from the neighbourhood of Greyfriars' Churchyard.

Next page: Seventeenth Century Buildings in Edinburgh