A central and symbolic role in the history of Scotland

The History of the Kirk

Greyfriars was built on the site of a pre-Reformation Franciscan monastery, which explains how the name of the Kirk came to be (so-called after the robes that the friars wore). However, following the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the grounds of the Franciscan monastery (which was then on the outskirts of the city) passed into the possession of Mary Queen of Scots, who subsequently granted it to the town council, for use as a burial ground, later bordered by the famous Flodden Wall.

By the end of the sixteenth century, a new church was needed for the south-west parish of the city and building work began on Greyfriars in 1602. Greyfriars was to be the first post-Reformation church built in Edinburgh – however, progress was slow, and the new church did not open until Christmas Day 1620.

The National Covenant was signed here in 1638. By 1722 a second church, New Greyfriars, had been built next door and the two churches were joined together in the 1930s.