Saturday, June 27, 2015

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh

In 1801 Bishop George Hay chose this site, near the centre of the Scottish capital, for a new Roman Catholic Church in Edinburgh. Earlier Roman Catholic Chapels in the centre of Edinburgh had been badly damaged in attacks by the mob, and Bishop Hay wanted the new church to be hidden from public view. The first Mass was celebrated in the new Chapel of St Mary’s in 1814.
The original Chapel – a small, rather plain, building – was designed by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham. It lay in the heart of a community of small shops and tenements, which extended almost to Prince Street. There would have been no church without the ‘pennies from the poor’ who lived locally.

The Industrial Revolution, the Highland Clearances and the Irish potato famine all contributed to a growth in Edinburgh’s Roman Catholic population in the 19th century. To reflect this, the Chapel – which became a Cathedral in 1886 after the restoration of the Scottish Catholic Hierarchy – was gradually extended over the years, and all that now survives of Graham’s original design is the Gothic façade.

Cardinal Gray welcomed Pope John Paul II to the Cathedral in 1982, on the occasion of his pastoral visit to Scotland. The Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and now serves a large, cosmopolitan city centre community. 

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