A prominent feature of the Edinburgh skyline, St Giles Cathedral decorates the midpoint of the Royal Mile with its rounded hollow-crown tower.
The cathedral is the High Kirk of Edinburgh, and is a very important part of the city's spiritual life, and has been for at least 900 years. Today it is often regarded as the mother church of Presbyterianism; since the Church of Scotland became Presbyterian in the 17th century, St Giles is no longer a cathedral in the technical sense, although the name survives colloquially. As the name implies, it is dedicated to Saint Giles, who was the patron saint of cripples and lepers and a very popular saint in the Middle Ages.
The oldest parts of the building are four massive central pillars, dating from 1120. Over the years many chapels have been added and by the middle of the sixteenth century (before the Reformation) there were about fifty altars in the church. Today the chapel of the Order of the Thistle is attached to the eastern end of St Giles.
In 1637 King Charles I attempted to impose Anglican services on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. On Sunday July 23, when Dean John Hanna began to read from the new Book of Prayer, Jenny Geddes, a market-woman or street-seller, threw her folding stool at his head starting riots. This led to the National Covenant and hence the Bishops' Wars; the first part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which included the English Civil War.
Its many monuments and memorials, as well as its sheer size and location, has made it a very popular tourist attraction, drawing special notice during the annual Edinburgh Festival, which centers on the Royal Mile.
St Giles Cathedral on the Edinburgh Old Town skyline
Napier University has an excellent site dedicated to the cathedral, which can be found here (http://www.napier.ac.uk/depts/music/st-giles/st-giles.html).
Undiscovered Scotland (http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/edinburgh/stgiles/)
About Britain (http://www.aboutbritain.com/StGilesCathedral.htm)
The Capital Scot (http://thecapitalscot.com/reform/2giles.html)
Edinburgh Photo (http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/0_b/0_buildings_-_st_giles_church.htm)
ElectricScotland.com The Churches of Edinburgh (http://www.electricscotland.com/history/edinburgh/chap14.htm)