Magdelen Chapel, from Gordon’s map of Edinburgh
The Magdalen Chapel, in the Cowgate of Edinburgh, is a fascinating building with a no less fascinating history. It has strong connections with the Incorporation of Hammermen, who owned it for over 300 years, and with the Convenery of the Incorporated Trades, which met there for almost as long. The Chapel was founded by a pious couple, Michael McQuhan and his wife, Jonet Rynd, in the 1540s, as part of a charitable “Hospital” or old folks’ home for seven indigent men. Jonet Rynd committed it to the care and patronage of the Incorporation of Hammermen and it remained in their possession until about 1858 when they were obliged to sell it. It now belongs to the Scottish Reformation Society.
The Chapel was used by the Hammermen as their regular meeting place during all that time and also, from 1596 to 1858 by the Convenery of Trades. The coats of arms of the principal crafts of the Hammermen are painted on panels in front of the pulpit area. The south-facing windows include the remnants of the original stained glass (the only pre-Reformation stained glass that remains in its original location in the whole of Scotland), comprising the Royal Arms and the arms of the two founders. Beneath one of the windows is the stone sarcophagus of Janet Rynd, carved with her arms and an funerary inscription. Around the east and north walls are panels inscribed with memorials of donations made to the Chapel and Hospital by generations of craftsmen and others.
Magdelen Chapel in 1816
In the seventeenth century the Chapel was added to by building on a porch, meeting rooms and a bell-tower. The facade can be viewed from the bridge over which George IV Bridge crosses Cowgate.
The Chapel can be visited by appointment and it is well worth a visit.