Saturday, November 14, 2009

DAY FOUR: Calton Hill, Arthur's Seat, and St. Giles Cathedral

“You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.” – John Knox

23 October 2009

We had to be out of our hotel at 11am that morning, so we left our luggage downstairs and said goodbye to our comfortable room.

During the first three days of our stay in Edinburgh, we saw several monuments atop various hills in the city; our only destination was getting to those monuments and seeing what they were. We simply walked in their general direction, keeping them in sight. On our way toward it, we stopped off at a large, enclosed grave yard and walked through it. I liked the grave plots, most of them were sectioned off with stone—like monuments in and of themselves. We were confused to find one monument in the graveyard with a statue of Abraham Lincoln on it: we came closer to find it was a memorial for the Scottish-Americans killed during the Civil war.

We found our way up to the monuments atop Calton Hill and walked around. I did some sketches of Edinburgh, looked at the various monuments which had less value to us that we expected (they were for people we’d never heard of).

We then found our way down the hill and back to the other side of Edinburgh to Arthur’s Seat, where Julene wanted to do some more walking. There’s a park at the base of the hill, so we strolled through the area—saw Hollyrood Abbey from behind a stone wall, looked at the Lake at the base of Arthur’s Seat, and in general just enjoyed the park.

We went back down the Royal Mile to go to St. Giles Cathedral (The Church of Scotland), to sit in there a while. I did another sketch there and took contraband photos. (You were supposed to pay for a permit to take photos, but since I’m not selling these, I just took a couple to remember the church by.)

It’s believed that there’s been a church built on or near the site of St. Giles Cathedral since 854, first as a parish church, and then as a Catholic Christian church (renamed St. Giles) in the 1100s. John Knox headed the Reformation in Scotland, with which St. Giles took part, little by little during Knox’s administration. In other words, St. Giles was not reformed overnight by riots, the smashing of windows, or the looting of precious altars and statues (like it was in England). The church became a Presbyterian Cathedral in the 1600s when William Forbes was made the first bishop of the Edinburgh diocese; it now retains the title of Cathedral.

Being in St. Giles Cathedral wasn’t too much unlike being in an Anglican Cathedral as far as its gothic architecture and stained glass windows go, but it was less ornate than any of the Anglican Cathedrals I’ve attended so far. The quire was simple and wooden, and in the crossing of the Nave and transepts, rather than given its own section, as in most Cathedrals. St. Giles was small, too, which gave it the older feeling of many of the smaller parish churches we’ve gone in on walks with Norman foundations.

It seems that every time I go into a new Cathedral, I like it better than the last because there’s always something new that’s so impressive. The Thistle Chapel, for example, was one of the most ornate Chapels I’ve seen anywhere in any Cathedral, and was well worth the look. It’s built to give honor to the Knights of the Thistle (reminiscent of the Order of the Thistle—a high honor for those who have given distinguished service).

It’s interesting to me how people who have such a long heritage hold on to that heritage for so long—and especially to see that heritage in their churches where the church and the state is not separate in the same respect as it is in America. It’s not to say that I think it wrong to hold on to heritage, it is perhaps the only thing that is right, because heritage includes God, includes faith, includes who you are, and I find myself wishing that we held the same pride for our country within our places of worship, though I understand the good reasons behind not doing so—one of them being that our church is an international one.

This brings me to one last thought I had while in St. Giles church: I miss patriotism. I miss the time when you could be proud of being an American without people thinking you the worse for it. You don’t find this within the church, but I do find it among my peers: the animosity toward our country by its own citizens is something that terrifies me—if we can’t even love our government, or our culture how will we ever be able to live up to being the promised land we were prophesied as being? In Scotland there is so much national pride, a pride I only wish we could humbly emulate.

After leaving the church it began pouring, so we took refuge in Chocolate Soup where we had another hot chocolate.

We decided to go to New Town that night because Jim (a tour guide at Edinburgh Castle who spoke to us and told us about a lot of Scottish men and their contributions to the world) told us there were 27 pubs on Rose Street. So, we went to Rose Street and counted, naturally.

It turns out there were only 17, but at least it kept us busy for an hour.

Most everything was closed around 5pm, so we went back to our hotel and asked to sit in the lobby, which we were allowed to do. We did homework until it was time to start off for the Coach Station.

We said our goodbye’s to Scotland, ready for clean clothes and breakfasts that didn’t consist of rice-cakes and digestives.

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