St. Margaret's Chapel

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Stained glass window image of Saint Margaret of Scotland in the chapel
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St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh
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Interior of St Margaret's Chapel. Note the chancel arch with chevron motifs.


St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh Castle, is a fine example of Norman architecture and the oldest building in Edinburgh, Scotland. Legend had it that St. Margaret worshipped in this small chapel, but recent research indicates that it was built at the beginning of the 12th century by her fourth son who became King David in 1124. The building has been restored and the interior presents much the same appearance as it did when first in use.

The small irregular stone building has some similarity to earlier Scottish and Irish Celtic chapels. The rectangular structure with an internal width of 3 metres (10 ft) has an entrance door at one side near the back of the nave which is 4.87 m (16 ft) long, then a typically Norman round chancel arch 1.52 m (5 feet) wide with chevron mouldings decorating the arch above columns on each side leads into an apsed sanctuary 3 m long, with the apse having a radius of 1.52 m. The north wall has been renewed, and the three surviving outer walls are 61 cm (2 ft) thick, as is the chancel wall. Five small round-headed windows and the round arch above the entrance door confirm the Norman style.

On the night of 14 March 1314 the Castle was captured by Randolph, Earl of Moray, and in accordance with the policy of King Robert the Bruce he destroyed all the buildings in the Castle, except for the little chapel. On his death bed in 1329, Bruce spoke of the story of Queen Margaret and issued orders for the chapel's repair, with some forty pounds Scots being put aside for that purpose. For many years afterwards the building was known as the "Royal Chapel in the Castle". There is a fairly frequent record of services held in the chapel, though another and larger chapel was also in use within the Castle.

The chapel fell into disuse at the Protestant Reformation, and was used as a gunpowder store in the 16th century and as late as 1845. At that time Sir Daniel Wilson publicised the building, and under his supervision restoration was carried out in 1853 with the support of Queen Victoria. In 1929 further work was carried out to bring the chapel back into use, and the restored and refurnished chapel was dedicated on 16 March 1934.

The St. Margaret's Chapel Guild was started in 1942 under the patronage of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret and the leadership of Lady Russell. In 1993 as commemoration of the 900th anniversary of the death of St Margaret, Historic Scotland renovated the chapel and St Margaret's Chapel Guild refurbished it with a new altar cloth, ten bench seats, an alms chest, a flower stand, and a display case for a facsimile of the St Margaret's Gospel book. Members of St Margaret's Chapel Guild now have a tradition of ensuring that there are always fresh flowers in the chapel to welcome visitors, whether tourists, those coming to pray or those taking part in services of Holy Baptism or Holy Matrimony.

Location: grid reference NT252735

Open all year except 25/26 December and 1/2 January, ticket admission to castle: 9.30–17.15 April–September, closes an hour earlier other months.

See Also

Edinburgh Castle

External links

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Edinburgh Castle is an ancient fortress which, from its position atop Castle Rock, dominates the sky-line of the city of Edinburgh, and is Scotland's second most visited tourist attraction, after the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.
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Saint Margaret (c. 1045–16 November 1093), was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the Anglo-Saxon heir to the throne of England. She married Malcolm III, King of Scots, becoming his Queen consort.
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chapel is a holy place or area of worship, sometimes small and attached to a larger institution such as a large church, a college, a hospital, a palace, a prison or a cemetery, sometimes large and unattached to another building.
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