‘DURING more than three centuries of troubled history, Greyfriars has seen a variety of changes, alterations and other vicissitudes. Inevitably so, for it is a house of God – not an antiquarian monument belonging to a crystallised and dead past, but a living centre of a faith.”
So said then-minister Rev Dr R Stuart Louden nearly 50 years ago at a service to mark the Kirk of the Greyfriars’ 350th anniversary. Now Greyfriars is set to change again – this time in a bid to attract more Greyfriars Bobby fans inside the kirk.
One million visit the cemetery every year to pay homage to the dog who refused to leave the grave of his master John Gray, but only two per cent ever come into the kirk. A refurbishment of the entrance porch – an early example of neo-classical architecture – is planned, as are upgrades to the visitor centre to raise awareness of Greyfriars’ history as the location of the first signing of the National Covenant in 1638.
Records from December 23, 1612 show work on the church was being urged to “gang forward with all convenient expedition” and it was dedicated for public worship in 1620. Before that, the congregation had been housed in the western part of St Giles’.
Changes have been numerous over the years – including the kirk’s purchase of the Coronation Bar in Candlemaker Row to create a church hall in 1961. The building now houses the Grassmarket Community Project, which helps the homeless.