The next place I visited on first day in Edinburgh was Greyfriars Kirkyard. The kirk itself is only open April to October, but includes a museum telling thestory of Greyfriars through time and includes the oil painting of Greyfriars Bobby by John MacLeod. There is also a a gift shop.
The kirkyard itself was wonderfully atmospheric on this steely skied winter’s day and there are many interesting memorials.
In fact Greyfriars ‘boasts the best collection of seventeenth century monuments in Scotland.’ (Gifford et al 1991; 155 via McKee 2011) some of which feature beautiful carved designs. There are also fine examples of 18th and 19th century memorials, as the Kirkyard was not closed to new burials until the 1870’s (McKee 2011; 16). The symbolism used on gravestones and in churchyards in the 17th and 18th centuries included skulls, skeletons, grave diggers tools and other imagery which seems somewhat macabre to modern sensibilities. These symbols acted as Memento Mori, reminding those who saw them of their own mortality.
These images from Greyfriars are just some of the many good examples I spotted, I’m sure if I’d had longer to spend wandering I could have found many more.
There is a noticeboard to the right of the Kirk with a map showing the locations of famous ‘residents’ memorials and maps are also available from the Kirk when it is open.
Greyfriars is well known for the story of greyfriars bobby, which captured the hearts of many including Dog Aid Society of Scotland who erected this memorial is 1981, and Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts who commisioned the drinking fountain outside the kirkyard, unveiled in 1873.
The history of the kirk and kirkyard also have many other interesting stories to tell such as their use as a Covenanter’s Prision.
I’m hoping to find time to return to Greyfriars later in year and explore further as well as visiting the kirk itself. If I do, I’ll be sure to post more pictures!
Edinburgh World Heritage, (no date), ‘Edinburgh Graveyard Project’, available at http://www.ewht.org.uk/looking-after-our-heritage/edinburgh-graveyards-project, accessed on 15/02/14
Edinburgh World Heritage, (no date), ‘Greyfriars Kirkyard,’ available at http://www.ewht.org.uk/looking-after-our-heritage/edinburgh-graveyards-project/the-graveyards/greyfriars-kirkyard, accessed on 15/02/14
Greyfriars, (no date), ‘Heritage’, available at http://www.greyfriarskirk.com/heritage, accessed on 15/02/14
McKee, K, 2011, ‘Edinburgh Graveyards Project: Documentary Survey For Greyfriars Kirkyard’, PDF available via Edinburgh World Heritage website.