Cathedral reopens home of historic order after thefts

Gary Wilson in the Thistle Chapel. Picture: Church of Scotland.

Gary Wilson in the Thistle Chapel. Picture: Church of Scotland.

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A ROYAL chapel in St Giles’ Cathedral is finally being reopened to the public after a spate of thefts forced it to close for more than a year.

Gary Wilson and Andrew Barr have been hired to provide security in the Thistle Chapel, which is the spiritual home of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle – Scotland’s order of chivalry.

Members of the order include the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal.

More than one million people visited the cathedral in 2015 but the chapel – which contains stalls for the 16 knights and lady, the sovereign’s stall and two royal stalls – was locked in February last year after thieves stole several ceremonial items.

The cathedral has now hired Mr Wilson and Mr Barr to provide security in the chapel, which allowed it to reopen to the public last Monday.

More than 5700 people have visited the cathedral since the reopening, the Church of Scotland said.

Ancient history graduate Mr Wilson, 26, said he was delighted to be involved in putting the chapel back on the Capital’s tourist trail.

He said: “People have been disappointed that they have been unable to visit the chapel in the last year so I am very pleased to be playing a part in ensuring that it is once again open for visitors to enjoy.

“It is a core part of St Giles’ Cathedral and visitors come from around the world to see it because the carvings are quite profound.”

Visitor services manager Sarah Phemister said: “It is one of the architectural jewels in Scotland’s crown and St Giles’ Cathedral is passionate about preserving it for future generations. Being able to once again provide open access to the public is fabulous.

“There is only one Thistle Chapel in the entire world and now people can come in and see it. Feedback from visitors has been very positive and we thank everyone for their patience over the last 12 months.

“We are looking forward to once again encouraging visitors from near and far to explore such a remarkable space.

“We are extremely grateful to the public for their generous donations which are very important to the upkeep of St Giles’ Cathedral and the Thistle Chapel.”

The chapel, which was completed in 1911, was designed by architect Robert Lorimer and built in the style of the high gothic architecture of the 15th century. Membership of the order, which is thought to have been established in the 15th century, is considered to be one of the country’s highest honours and is bestowed on Scots or people of Scots ancestry who have given distinguished service.

The thefts saw several items taken, including a seat cover, a 19th-century Dutch alms plate, an altar cloth, a tassel from the Queen’s throne cushion and a plaque commemorating Alexander Bruce, the 6th Lord 
Balfour of Burleigh.

newsen@edinburghnews.co.uk