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Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, though not its largest city, derives its name from the time (about A.D. 620) when the fortress of Edwin's burgh was raised on a lofty spur of the Pentland Hills, overlooking the Firth of Forth, and established the Anglian dominion in the northern part of the Northumbrian Kingdom. Edinburgh Castle was a royal residence in the reign of Malcolm Canmore, husband of St. Margaret, who died there in 1093. Round the castle the town grew up, and a little lower down the collegiate church of St. Giles, predecessor of the present church bearing that name, was erected in the twelfth century. St. Margaret's son, King David I, founded the Abbey of Holyrood, at the foot of the castle hill, 1128; but the town of Edinburgh for several centuries did not extend beyond the ridge sloping eastwards from the castle. In the middle of the fifteenth century Edinburgh became the real capital of Scotland, that is, the seat of the Parliament and the Government, as well as the residence of the kings, and the scene of many of the most important provincial councils which regulated the affairs of the Scottish Church. James II was the first king crowned at Edinburgh instead of in the Abbey of Scone, and he and his successors conferred many privileges on the capital, and did all in their power to develop it and increase its prosperity. The buildings of the city gradually spread outside the ancient walls, all along the sloping ridge which extends from the castle at the top to Holyrood at the bottom; and towards the end of the nineteenth century the New Town was built to the northward, beyond the extensive lake (since drained) which stretched under the castle hill.

During the past hundred years Edinburgh has steadily increased in population and wealth, if not so rapidly as other cities which are greater centres of manufactures and commerce. The unrivalled beauty of its situation, and the social and other advantages which it offers as the capital of the country, as well as the remarkable educative facilities afforded by its many splendidly equipped schools and colleges, have always made it exceptionally attractive as a place of residence. Literary taste and culture were long the special characteristic of Edinburgh society, and it still possesses some of the literary charm which won for the city the title of the Modern Athens in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, when Scott, Wilson, Jeffrey, Brougham, and others made it famous by their personality and their genius. Modern facilities of travel and of intercommunication have inevitably given to Edinburgh, as to every centre of population in the kingdom outside London, a certain note or provincialism; but it has not altogether lost the dignity and charm proper to a capital. The population of Edinburgh is now (1908) 317,000, an increase of more than 100,000 in the past thirty years; and its total area is nearly 11,000 acres. It returns four members to Parliament, and is governed by a town council of fifty members, presided over by the lord provost. Printing, brewing, and distilling have long been, and still are, the principal industries of the city. Edinburgh is the seat of the supreme court of Scottish law, which in its external forms as well as in many essential points differs greatly from the law of England. The presidents of the courts are the lord-justice-general and the lord-justice-clerk; and the judges, properly entitled "senators of the college of justice", enjoy the official title of lord. The supreme courts occupy the ancient Scottish Parliament house, a stately seventeenth century building; and under the same roof is the Advocates' Library, one of the most extensive and valuable collections of books and manuscripts in the kingdom.

Edinburgh University

Edinburgh University, the only one of the four Scottish universities not founded in Catholic times, was established in 1582 by royal charter granted by James VI, and was speedily enriched by many benefactions from prominent citizens. Its buildings occupy the site of the ancient collegiate church of St. Mary-in-the-Fields, or the Kirk o'Field (well known as the scene of the mysterious murder of Lord Darnley), and have in recent years been greatly extended and embellished. The university comprises the usual faculties of divinity, law, medicine, and arts, and has produced many eminent men. The Edinburgh medical school has a world-wide reputation, and attracts students from all parts of the empire, as well as many foreigners. No religious tests prevent Catholics from enjoying the full benefits of university education in Edinburgh; but the number of Catholics frequenting the schools is remarkably small. The total number of students frequenting the university is between three and four thousand.

Ecclesiastical history

Edinburgh is naturally much bound up in its ecclesiastical history with the country at large. In the earliest centuries of its existence, belonging as it did to the Kingdom of Northumbria, Edinburgh was included in the Diocese of Lindisfarne, as we find from the list of churches belonging to that see compiled by Simeon of Durham in 854. The early connexion of the city with Lindisfarne is shown by the dedication to St. Cuthbert of its oldest church, founded probably in the ninth century. St. Cuthbert's church was presented to the newly established Abbey of Holyrood by King David; it was the richest church in Edinburgh, and possessed several outlying chapels, such as St. Ninian's, St. Roque's, and St. John Baptist's. When the diocesan system came to be fully established in Scotland, under Malcolm and Margaret and their sons, Edinburgh was included in the metropolitan Diocese of St. Andrews, and continued to be so until the suppression of the ancient hierarchy in the sixteenth century. The archbishop's see, as well as the episcopal residence, was of course in the primatial city of St. Andrews, beyond the Firth of Forth; and there was no building known as a cathedral in Edinburgh prior to 1634, when the new Anglican Diocese of Edinburgh was formed out of the ancient archdeaconry of Lothian, and Forbes became the first occupant of the see. The old collegiate church of St. Giles was at this time, and during the revival of Episcopalianism in Scotland, used as the cathedral of the Protestant bishop. As regards the Catholic Church, Edinburgh was the head-quarters of the vicars Apostolic of the Eastern District of Scotland from the time of the foundation of that vicariate in 1828, when the church now known as St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral had been in existence for some fifteen years. It has no architectural interest, but a spacious chancel was added, and other improvements carried out, in 1891. A cathedral for the Episcopalian body (whose bishop resides in Edinburgh) was erected about 1878, at a cost of over $500,000, from funds left by two charitable ladies. It is a Gothic building of much dignity, and by far the finest ecclesiastical building, either ancient or modern, now existing in Edinburgh. The Presbyterians have some handsome churches, but the grand old church of St. Giles, now in their hands, has been hopelessly vulgarized by the "restorer". A new church built by the Irvingites is adorned within by some fine mural paintings.

The seven Catholic churches which (besides the cathedral) supply the needs of the Catholic population of Edinburgh are of no particular merit architecturally, the most interesting being the latest erected, St. Peter's, which is in the earliest Byzantine style, and forms, with its presbytery, a little group of much originality and charm. The Catholic Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh (the fourth who has held that office in thirty years) resides in Edinburgh, and has his episcopal seat in St. Mary's Cathedral. St. Andrews (to which the title of Edinburgh was added at the restoration of the hierarchy in 1878) possesses a small Catholic church; but the Catholic population of the primatial city is—except for summer visitors—only a handful. In Edinburgh the Catholics are estimated to number about 20,000. In the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14) a list sent in to the privy council of "Popish parents and their children in various districts of Scotland" gives the number of Catholics in Edinburgh as 160, including the Duke and Duchess of Gordon with their family and household, and several other noble families. The majority of the Catholics of Edinburgh today are of the poorer classes, and of Irish origin; but the past decade or so has witnessed a considerable number of conversions among the more well-to-do inhabitants of the city. Since the great anti-Catholic tumults of 1779, when the chapels and houses belonging to the insignificant Catholic body were burned by the rioters, the spirit of tolerance has made progress in the Scottish capital as elsewhere in the kingdom. Catholics are generally respected, and may and do rise to high positions of trust in the commercial, legal, and municipal world.

Something remains to be said of the religious houses which have flourished in Edinburgh in ancient and modern times. The principal and wealthiest monastery in former days was the Abbey of Holyrood, founded by David I for Augustinian canons, who were brought from St. Andrews. The Blackfriars or Dominican monastery was founded by Alexander II in 1230, on a site now occupied by a hospital. The Greyfriars or Franciscan church (of the Observant branch of the order) stood in the Grassmarket until it was destroyed by fire in 1845. The Whitefriars of Carmelites did not settle in Edinburgh until 1518. Their house of Greenside, near the Calton Hill, was transformed at the Dissolution into a lepers' hospital. Beyond the Carmelite house, nearer Leith, stood the preceptory of St. Anthony, the only house of that order in Scotland. The collegiate churches in and about Edinburgh included those of St. Giles and St. Mary-in-the-Fields (already mentioned), Trinity Church, Restalrig, Corstorphine, Creighton, and Dalkeith. Trinity church, one of the most exquisite Gothic buildings in Scotland, was destroyed in the nineteenth century by a deplorable act of vandalism, to make room for new railway works. Neither the Benedictine nor Cistercian monks, who had numerous houses in Scotland, were established in Edinburgh. The Cistercian or Bernardine nuns, however, possessed the convent of St. Marie-in-the-wynd (or lane) near a hospital, where the sisters tended the sick. The Dominican nuns had also a convent (called Sciennes or Shenes, from St. Catherine of Siena) in the outskirts of the city. The numerous hospitals in Catholic Edinburgh comprised St. Mary Magdalen's in the Cowgate, founded in 1503 (the chapel remains, and is now used as a medical mission-hall); St. Leonard's, at the foot of Salisbury Crags; St. Mary's, in Leith Wynd, for twelve almsmen (converted into a workhouse by the Edinburgh magistrates in 1619); St. Thomas's, near the water-gate, founded in 1541 by Abbot Crichton of Holyrood for seven almsmen in red gowns; and Ballantyne's Hospital, founded by Robert Ballentyne or Bellenden, Abbot of Holyrood. The two religious orders of men now working in Edinburgh and its seaport of Leith are the Jesuits and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The former serve one of the largest churches in the city, and the latter have a house at Leith. There are eight convents of nuns, the oldest being St. Margaret's (Ursuline), founded in 1835, the first since the Reformation. The nuns keep a high-class school and attend several hospitals. St. Catherine's Convent of Mercy has a well-equipped training-college for teachers as well as a ladies' school. The other convents are those of the Sisters of Charity, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, Poor Clares, Order of Marie Réparatrice, Helpers of the Holy Souls, and Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The other Catholic institutions of the city include a children's refuge, orphanages for boys and girls, home for working boys, home for destitute children, dispensary, and home for penitents.

Sources

     MAITLAND, Hist. of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1754); ANDERSON, Hist. Of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1856); CHAMBERS, Traditions of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1825); WILSON, Memorials of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1848); LEES, St. Giles (Edinburgh, 1887); ARNOT, Hist. of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1779); Lectures on the Antiquities of Edinburgh in the Guild of St. Joseph (Edinburgh, 1845); OLIPHANT, Royal Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1890).

About this page

APA citation. Hunter-Blair, O. (1909). Edinburgh. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05284a.htm

MLA citation. Hunter-Blair, Oswald. "Edinburgh." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05284a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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