Legend had it that St. Margaret worshipped in this small chapel, but recent research indicates that it was built at the beginning of the 12th century by her fourth son who became King David in 1124. The building has been restored and the interior presents much the same appearance as it did when first in use.
The small irregular stone building has some similarity to earlier Scottish and Irish Celtic chapels. The rectangular structure with an internal width of 3 metres (10 ft) has an entrance door at one side near the back of the nave which is 4.87 m (16 ft) long, then a typically Romanesque round chancel arch 1.52 m (5 feet) wide with chevron mouldings decorating the arch above columns on each side leads into an apsed sanctuary 3 m long, with the apse having a radius of 1.52 m. Five small round-headed windows and the round arch above the entrance door confirm the Romanesque style.
On the night of 14 March 1314 the Castle was captured by Randolph, Earl of Moray, and in accordance with the policy of King Robert the Bruce he destroyed all the buildings in the Castle, except for the little chapel. On his death bed in 1329, Bruce spoke of the story of Queen Margaret and issued orders for the chapel’s repair, with some forty pounds Scots being put aside for that purpose. For many years afterwards the building was known as the “Royal Chapel in the Castle”. There is a fairly frequent record of services held in the chapel, though another and larger chapel was also in use within the Castle.
The chapel fell into disuse at the Protestant Reformation, and was used as a gunpowder store in the 16th century and as late as 1845. At that time Sir Daniel Wilson publicised the building, and under his supervision restoration was carried out in 1853 with the support of Queen Victoria. A later proposal by Hippolyte Blanc to enlarge and enrich the chapel was rejected
The stained glass, by Douglas Strachan, was installed in 1922 and illustrates St Andrew, St Columba, St Margaret, St Ninian and William Wallace. In 1929 further work was carried out to bring the chapel back into use, and the restored and refurnished chapel was dedicated on 16 March 1934.
The St. Margaret’s Chapel Guild was started in 1942 under the patronage of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret and the leadership of Lady Russell. In 1993 as commemoration of the 900th anniversary of the death of St Margaret, Historic Scotland renovated the chapel and St Margaret’s Chapel Guild refurbished it with a new altar cloth, ten bench seats, an alms chest, a flower stand, and a display case for a facsimile of the St Margaret’s Gospel book. Members of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild now have a tradition of ensuring that there are always fresh flowers in the chapel to welcome visitors, whether tourists, those coming to pray or those taking part in services of Holy Baptism or Holy Matrimony.
St. Margaret’s Chapel is a Category A Listed Building (HB Number 48228).
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Locate the chapel within Edinburgh Castle by clicking here.
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