Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Theft-hit Thistle Chapel set to reopen in St Giles' Cathedral

Thistle Chapel Image copyright Peter Backhouse

A royal chapel in Edinburgh considered to be one of Scotland's architectural jewels is to reopen a year after a spate of thefts forced it to close.

The Thistle Chapel in St Giles' Cathedral is the home to the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland's order of chivalry.

Ceremonial items including a seat cover, a 19th Century Dutch alms plate and an altar cloth were stolen.

A tassel from the Queen's throne cushion was also stolen.

A plaque which commemorated Alexander Bruce, the 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was also taken.

However the cathedral is now seeking to recruit two part-time members of staff to be responsible for the security of the Thistle Chapel.

Applicants are being sought for the posts for six months from mid-March allowing the chapel, which has been closed since February 2015, to open to members of the public for the tourist season.

Gothic architecture

Sarah Phemister, visitor services manager, 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 in 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."

The chapel, which was completed in 1911, was designed by architect Robert Lorimer and built in the style of the high gothic architecture of the 15th Century.

Entered through a low-vaulted vestibule or ante-chapel at the east end of the cathedral's Preston aisle, the chapel is rich with carvings and stained glass.

Along the sides of the chapel are the wooden stalls. Each seat is decorated with carvings - no two are alike - and the owner's coats of arms are enamelled on metal plaques fastened to the backs of their seats.

In the centre of the west wall is the sovereign's stall, the grandest seat in the chapel, which bears the royal arms.

Membership of the order, which was probably established in the 15th Century, is considered to be one of the country's highest honours and is bestowed on Scots or people of Scots ancestry who have given distinguished service.

Appointments are in the personal gift of the monarch and the current Dean of the Thistle is the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, a Church of Scotland minister.

Members of the order include the Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal.

More than one million people visited the cathedral in 2015.

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