Our full title is “The Cathedral Church of St Mary in Edinburgh”. Ever since the earliest times, the Christian Church has been divided into geographical areas known as dioceses. Every Diocese has its own Bishop, whose duty it is to teach, lead and care for the clergy and people of the Diocese, acting as Christ’s primary representative to them.
The Cathedral is the church where the Bishop’s throne (cathedra in Greek) resides. Hence, we are the Cathedral for the Diocese of Edinburgh, which is why you may sometimes hear us referred to as “Edinburgh Cathedral”. However, owing to the fact that the city contains two other Cathedrals (St Giles, and St Mary’s Metropolitan: the Church of Scotland High Kirk, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral, respectively), we prefer to call ourselves simply “St Mary’s Cathedral”, after our patron saint.
The Diocese of Edinburgh is one of the seven historic dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). The SEC traces its origins back to the fifth century AD and the very first Christians in Scotland, especially St Ninian and St Mungo, who founded the first dioceses here. The SEC is in full communion with the Church of England and other Anglican churches worldwide. The SEC maintains many similarities with the Church of England, especially in our styles of worship and governance, but we also possess many differences, not least of which is the fact that we are not established, and so do not possess the same kind of relationship with the State.
Like any other busy Cathedral, we are the centre for many diocesan activities and special services, as well as cultural events such as concerts, lectures and exhibitions. But our most important activity is the maintenance of a constant cycle of Christian prayer, day-in day-out, year-by-year, as a key part of our witness to the message of God’s Good News for all people found in Jesus Christ.
In addition to the daily cycle of prayer and worship, we support a busy programme of groups and activities which are open to all. These vary from Sunday groups for children and young people, through groups which meet in the week for prayer, study, cultural and social activities, to various outreach and fundraising activities for charities both local and worldwide.Read more about Cathedral Life >>
The Friends of St Mary's Cathedral exists to support the witness and mission of the Cathedral through a programme of fundraising, prayer and cultural and social activities.Read more about Friends of the Cathedral >>
At the close of the Middle Ages, when all Christian churches in northern Europe belonged to the “one catholic church” under the authority of the Pope, Edinburgh was within the archdiocese of St Andrews, with its Archbishop’s seat (cathedra) in St Andrews itself.Read more about History >>
Around the Cathedral Many pre-Reformation cathedrals were founded on the pattern of monasteries and religious foundations, and so they have cathedral closes, houses and cloisters to support a sizeable residential community.Read more about A Tour of the Cathedral >>
St Mary's, the first major Cathedral to be built from new in Britain since the Reformation, was built to the design of Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1879. It has strengths that witness to the spirit of that age: it is massive, the spires dominate the Edinburgh skyline, and it rejoices in a wealth of ornate and symbolic detail.Read more about The Cathedral Workshop >>