Facelift for St Giles’ carves out a controversy

St Giles' Cathedral is a tourist magnet in the capital. Picture: Susan Burrell
St Giles' Cathedral is a tourist magnet in the capital. Picture: Susan Burrell
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IT IS the cradle of Presbyterianism, famed for its role in Scotland’s religious history and for it impressive architecture.

But officials at St Giles’ Cathedral, one of Edinburgh’s best-known buildings, have sparked controversy with plans to carve into its celebrated stonework.

Staff are proposing a change to its fascia, carving the name of the imposing structure into the building outside the main western facing door.

The controversy comes as the cathedral names a new minister for the first time in 40 years, with the appointment of the Rev Calum MacLeod, who was voted in by the congregation on Sunday.

The figure of St Giles is currently depicted above the main door protecting a deer in a relief that rests in the decorative arched tympanum. But cathedral officials plan to cut in the title “St Giles’ Cathedral” on to the stonework alongside the interpretation of the saint.

Some, who believe the cathedral is one of the nation’s most prized buildings, said the move would be opposed, despite a history of alterations to the building – which is A-listed by the Scottish Government agency Historic Scotland – stretching back more than five centuries.

One heritage source said carving the name was not necessary, given the building’s reputation. “How many people come to Edinburgh and don’t know what St Giles’ Cathedral is? It is not something that is necessary,” he said.

However, one leading architect based in the capital, James Simpson, said he believed the company charged with the task were leaders in the field. He said: “I think what is proposed is clear. It is well designed and will be ­beautifully done.”