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Fascinating day at Edinburgh’s ‘hidden gem’

Around 20 members and guests of the Order were treated to an enthusiastic talk on one of Edinburgh’s historical and religious gems, the tiny Magdalen Chapel in the Cowgate. The Rev. A. Sinclair Horne, the Secretary for the Scottish Reformation Society, welcomed guests and explained some of the history and fascinating features of the chapel.

The Chapel was Roman Catholic, in fact the last to be built in Edinburgh prior to the Reformation. It was erected by husband and wife, Michael Macquhane and Janet Rynd, in the hope that through it they would gain merit and eternal life.

In the 1500s Michael MacQuhane planned the new Chapel to serve both as a religious Chapel and a Guidhall for the Hammermen. He unfortunately died before seeing his Chapel built. He left £700 Scots to his wife Janet Rynd to complete the project and she added a further £2000 Scots (approx. £215 sterling) so that by 1541 the Chapel was built. By 1547 a little hospital or almshouse was also complete for the housing of seven elderly men.

Magdalen Chapel is regarded as 'a hidden gem' of the Old City of Edinburgh sited as it is under the shadow of huge George lV Bridge, whose construction brought about the demolition of one side of the building.

‘Sinclair said to me after his chat to us about the place that he loved it,’ said Ros Newton. ‘I could tell that he did. What a wonderful man. And a marvellous chapel. We all enjoyed it enormously and I loved the stained glass, the oldest intact stained glass in Scotland.’

One of the windows features the arms of Mary of Guise (top right panel), who was Mary Queen of Scots’ mother. She was a good friend of Janet Rynd.

After the historical visit members retired to the delightful Merchant’s restaurant around the corner, where a superb lunch was served and everyone chatted about their visit.

The enlightening and enjoyable day was organised by the East of Scotland commandery, so thanks to Neil Veitch-Rutherford and Peter Rae for hosting the event. And to Ros Newton, who suggested the little gem as a calendar event for fellow members. Thanks Ros, splendid idea.

With thanks to The Reformation Society for the use of their photos. Please visit the web site of the chapel for more information.

Members of the Order and guests were enthralled by the Rev Horne’s talk on the little chapel. It was built in 1541.

Ros Newton and Irene Rae admire the beautifully-restored throne chair in the chapel.

Peter Gardiner, Ron Partington, Rev Horne, and John Kelly enjoying the chapel.