Go to STV News

Iconic chapel on Royal Mile reopening after spate of thefts

Thistle Chapel in St Giles' Cathedral on Royal Mile will open its doors in March.

By STV News

Published 27 Jan 2016.

A Royal chapel which closed to the public following a spate of thefts is to reopen in the spring.

The historic Thistle Chapel within St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh is seen as the spiritual home of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland's order of chivalry.

More than a million people visited the cathedral on the Royal Mile last year, however the chapel was locked in February after the theft of valuable ceremonial items.

Stolen artefacts included a seat cover, a 19th century Dutch alms plate, an altar cloth, a tassel from the Queens’s throne cushion and a plaque which commemorated Alexander Bruce, the 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh.

Now two new members of staff are being employed to be responsible for the security of The Thistle Chapel, to allow it to re-open to the public.

Visitor services manager Sarah Phemister said: “The Thistle Chapel is one of Scotland’s architectural jewels and St Giles’ Cathedral is passionate about preserving it for future generations, whilst maintaining access for visitors from around the world.

“Following the difficult decision to close it early 2015, we are delighted that we will soon be in a position to be able to offer open access to visitors once more from mid-March.

“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.”

Membership of the Order of the Thistle, which was likely established in the 15th century, is considered to be one of the country’s highest honours and bestowed on Scots or people of Scots ancestry who have given distinguished service.

Members include the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip and the Duke of Rothesay Prince Charles.

The chapel was designed by famed architect Robert Lorimer and built in the style of the High Gothic architecture of the 15th century.

The stalls are capped by lavishly carved canopies with the helms and crests of the knights rising above.

Each seat is decorated with different carvings and the owner’s coats of arms are enamelled on metal plaques.