St Patrick’s, in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, has a long and intriguing history. Built between 1771 and 1774 for the Scottish Episcopal Church, it was sold to the United Presbyterian Congregation in 1818. When they amalgamated with another church and moved out they agreed to sell their redundant chapel to the Catholic Church.
It was bought by Bishop Gillis in 1856 to serve the growing number of Irish immigrants who had settled in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. The cost of the new church was £4000. Half was paid for by the Church; the rest was raised by the people. Though they lived in poverty they were determined to raise money for a church of their own. St Patrick’s was officially opened as a Catholic church on Sunday 3rd August 1856 by Bishop Gillis. The congregation present was estimated at 2,600.
In 1898 a new sanctuary was built, extending outwards from the north wall, and a high altar was installed. In 1921 the mortuary chapel was erected as a memorial to the 320 men of the parish who had fallen in the Great War. In 1924 a new Lady Chapel was built and the following year a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart. In 1929 a facade was added incorporating the statues of St Patrick and St Brigid in niches above the entrance. An impressive terrace and steps completed the design of the church and gave it the appearance we know today.
St Patrick’s is a highly significant building in Edinburgh’s Old Town, its tower a notable part of the skyline. As well as being a place of worship for a flourishing congregation it is also known as an oasis of peace for the soul in a busy city centre. The church is normally open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.