Magdalen Chapel

Cowgate, Edinburgh

The Magdalen Chapel is on the south side of Cowgate, not far from the foot of Candlemaker Row. It was under the patronage of the Incorporation of Hammermen from its foundation in the 1540s until it was sold in about 1858. From 1596 it was also the regular meeting place of the Convenery of the Trades of Edinburgh. The meeting-place was so closely identified with the Convenery of Trades that the ‘Magdalen Chapel’ was often used as a metonym for the Convenery itself.

The Magdelen Chapel, from the west
The Magdelen Chapel, from the west

The chapel was connected to a ‘Hospital’ of the same name, which was a home for indigent men, who originally were supposed to attend the chapel daily and say prayers for the repose of the souls of the Chapel’s founders, Michael McQueen and his spouse, Jonet Rynd.

After the Reformation the hospital still functioned under the patronage of the Hammermen but the religious requirements of the pre-Reformation founding charter no longer applied.

The chapel still houses what is believed to be the only pre-Reformation stained glass to have remained in Scotland in its original location. It consists of four roundels depicting the coats of arms of the two founders and of the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, and the Arms of Scotland.

Magdelen Chapel windows, sixteenth century
Magdelen Chapel windows, sixteenth century

Inside the chapel are the painted coats of arms of the different branches of the Incorporation of Hammermen. Against the south wall is the tomb of Jonet Rynd. At the east end is the beautifully restored chair of the deacon of the Hammermen, which dates from 1708.

There are also numerous boards round the walls, commemorating donations to the foundation by various different persons, mostly craftsmen.

Magdelen Chapel interior
Magdelen Chapel interior, looking east

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