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Edinburgh Castle, St Margaret's Chapel

Chapel (12th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh Castle, St Margaret's Chapel

Classification Chapel (12th Century)

Alternative Name(s) St Maru's Kirk; 'gunner's Storehouse'

Canmore ID 52091

Site Number NT27SE 1.03

NGR NT 25152 73501

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/52091

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 1.03 25152 73501

St Margaret's Chapel (NR).

OS 1:500 plan, (1895).

Name changed from St Maru's Kirk. Demolished in the 18th Century, Mediaeval foundation associated with the Canons House at Holyrood.

OS 230'C'.

St. Margaret's Chapel, founded more than eight centuries ago, is the most ancient building in the Citadel. It stands on the highest part of the Castle Rock and was used as a 'Gunner's Storehouse' after the Reformation.

J S Richardson and M Wood 1948.

Architectural evidence suggests that the Chapel was built by one or other of Queen Margaret's younger sons, Alexander or David (11th) Restored in 1845....(RCAHMS 1951).

D Wilson 1887.

(NT 2515 7350) Still stands in good condition.

Visited by OS (JLD) 29 December 1953.

As described in previous field report

Visited by OS (SFS) 10 November 1975.

St Margaret's Chapel [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, November 2009.

Architecture Notes

Information from catalogue slip

ARCHITECT: Hippolyte J. Blanc (reconstruction)

See NMRS Collections SK/Feg/10 W L Fergson Sketch Book No 10 for pencil sketches:

Exterior view, insc: 'St Margaret's Chapel. Edinburgh Castle. view from S.E.'

Detail, insc: 'caps of chancel arch. St. Margaret's Chapel. Edinburgh Castle.'

Detail, insc: 'Piscina in apse. St. Margaret's Chapel.'

REFERENCE

Scottish Record Office

Restoration of the Chapel of Edinburgh Castle.

Architect: (Robert William) Billings. (1813-74).

Letters concerning plans and the appointment of the architect.

1863

GD45/8/513

National Library

Master Masons I, p.298

Activities

Watching Brief (25 May 2012)

NT 2513 7351 A watching brief carried out on 25 May 2012 during a small excavation for a flagpole on the N side of the upper citadel of the castle recorded a surprising depth of deposits below the modern paving. The presence of handmade brick fragments in the upper deposits suggests that these were probably 18th-century or later in date. Prior to the 19th-century restoration of St Margaret’s Chapel the area was used as a gunner’s store and drawings exist which show an apparent yard on its W side. The basal deposit produced a small but fine assemblage of broadly medieval pottery. The presence of a large base sherd indicating the deposit contained relatively undisturbed material.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

OASIS ID - kirkdale1-310834

David Murray, Kirkdale Archaeology

2012

Standing Building Recording (1 February 2016 - 31 March 2016)

NT 2515 7350 A standing building survey was undertaken, 1 February – 31 March 2016. The chapel is now associated with St Margaret who died in 1093 but it was initially dedicated to St Michael, during the reign of David I (1124–53). The chapel was ultimately converted for use as a gunpowder store in the 17th century and the late-medieval chapel which adjoined the E end of St Margaret’s Chapel continued as the garrison chapel until the late 18th century. This in turn was replaced by a new chapel which lasted to the later 19th century. Queen Margaret’s Chapel was heavily restored from the early 1850s in order to create the Romanesque style of chapel which exists today. The recording programme revealed evidence of all these building phases and significantly did confirm that the 12th-century chancel arch and associated arch were inserted within an existing structure, but whether the latter is contemporary with the 11th-century Queen Margaret is not known at present.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Historic Environment Scotland

David Murray – Kirkdale Archaeology

(Source: DES, Volume 17)

Note (July 2017)

Private prayer

Among the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh Castle on a busy day, St Margaret’s Chapel is a place where you can almost imagine the contemplative prayers made by the Scottish Royal Family in times gone by. Margaret was a member of the Anglo-Saxon Royal Family, and lived as a young girl at the court of Edward the Confessor. She fled to Scotland in 1066 after the Norman Conquest and in 1070 became the second wife of King Malcolm III. Histories record Margaret as a pious woman who is reputed to have performed many acts of charity and in 1250, some 157 years after her death, she was canonised by Pope Innocent IV and her remains were transferred to a shrine chapel at Dunfermline Abbey.

In early 2016 Kirkdale Archaeology undertook a survey of the chapel which brought to light new information about the construction of the building, and clarified the extent to which its later reuse and restoration altered the appearance of the structure. The chapel was converted for use as a gunpowder store in the 17th century while the late-medieval chapel that adjoined its east end continued as the garrison’s chapel until the late 18th century. This, in turn, was replaced by a new chapel which lasted until the late 19th century before being removed. The chapel’s fine Romanesque chancel arch, decorated with a chevron pattern and perhaps dating to the first decade of the 12th century, appears to have been inserted into an earlier building.

The chapel today

Having been thoroughly obscured by later alteration and construction, the chapel was effectively rediscovered by the archaeologist Sir Daniel Wilson in 1845 and thereafter underwent a major restoration. Five stained glass windows by the famous stained glass artist Douglas Strachan were added in 1922, depicting Saints Andrew, Columba, Margaret and Ninian, as well as William Wallace. In 1993, 900 years after St Margaret’s death, the chapel was renovated, refurnished and rededicated with the help of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild. The Guild, founded in 1942, now ensure there are always fresh flowers at the chapel to welcome its many visitors. The Chapel is still used for religious services that include baptisms and weddings.

Further reading:

Fawcett, R (2002) Scottish Medieval Churches: architecture and furnishings.

RCAHMS (1951) An Inventory of the ancient and historical monuments of the city of Edinburgh, 13-15.

Wilson, D (1887) ‘Notice of St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh Castle’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 21, 291-316

Dr Rebecca Jones, Head of Archaeology and World Heritage and Dr. Kirsty Owen, Senior Archaeology Manager

References

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