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Chalmer's Close, (Between High Street and Jeffrey Street), Trinity College Church Apse, Including Carved Stone Fragments and Boundary Walls

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.951 / 55°57'3"N

Longitude: -3.1854 / 3°11'7"W

OS Eastings: 326070

OS Northings: 673741

OS Grid: NT260737

Mapcode National: GBR 8QG.77

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.1PD8

Entry Name: Chalmer's Close, (Between High Street and Jeffrey Street), Trinity College Church Apse, Including Carved Stone Fragments and Boundary Walls

Listing Date: 14 December 1970

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 397779

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB25747

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

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Description

John Lessels, 1872, incorporating parts of Trinity College Church by John Halkerston, 1460-1531, (demolished 1848 and relocated to present site, 1872 - see Notes). Exists as rectangular plan choir and buttressed apse; grey coursed sandstone ashlar; string and eaves course enriched with paterae; gargoyles; parapet to N and S elevations. Traceried windows all with headstopped hoodmoulds; carved capital (and other) fragments from demolished building set within walls in all elevations; also placed within curtilage.

W (CHALMER'S CLOSE) ELEVATION: single tall pointed gable; pointed loop-traceried window; cusped oculus above.

E (REAR) ELEVATION: apsed gable; 3 tall plain lancets (tracery destroyed - see Notes); 3 staged buttresses with gabletted, crocketed finials; niches at window-heads.

S ELEVATION: 2 storeys 3 bays; entrance at outer left with 2-leaf timber boarded door, modern glazed timber vestibule. Pointed traceried windows, 3 forming a clerestorey, 3 aisle windows.

N ELEVATION: surviving outline of later pitched roof extension projecting just beyond parapet; infill of squared and snecked sandstone; remnants of 2 original arches, infilled and rendered; 2 niche canopies below string course.

Plain frosted glass; closely spaced horizontal astragals. Saddleback grey slate roof; coped gablehead stack; circular clay cans. Cast iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: 2-storey; tierceron ribbed and vaulted ceiling; richly-carved bosses; vault shafts on carved corbels; slender wall shafts on carved corbels in spandrels of arcading; string course above tops of arches; 2 image brackets between 3 tall apse lancets. Arcade piers lozenge-shaped in plan; capitals carved with foliage, shields and grotesque masks; roll moulded pointed arches. W wall chimneypiece; 15th century jambs; half-lozenge shaped shafts (on plan) with fillets, scrollwork, and foliage; capitals each with 2 pairs of seated figures engaged in domestic activities (see Notes); 19th century hood. Reset blocked doorway in the N wall (formerly to sacristy of old church) encloses a large canopied piscina; hood and basin 15th or 16th century, jambs 19th.

BOUNDARY WALLS AND STONE FRAGMENTS: coped random rubble wall to S; low coped wall and iron railings to W enclosing gravel area; collection of stone fragments including capitals, fragments of a crossing pier, a doorhead and a niche canopy.

Statement of Interest

De-scheduled 12.12.1997. Ecclesiastical building no longer in use as such. Mary of Gueldres founded the collegiate church as a memorial to her husband, King James II, who was killed at the siege of Roxburgh in 1460. James Kennedy, Bishop of St Andrews, confirmed the foundation on April 1st 1462. The first provost of this collegiate church was Sir Edward Bonkil (or Boncle) and Trinity also supported 'eight prebedaries, and two singing boys; in addition to which there was attached to the foundation an hospital for thirteen poor bedemen, who were bound to pray for the soul of the foundress, her royal consort, and all their kin' (Wilson pp239-240).

After Mary of Gueldres's death, on 16th November 1463, the pace of building slowed dramatically and the church, comprising a choir, transepts and a partially constructed low saddleback crossing tower, was never fully completed. The original site of Trinity College Church and Hospital lay below Calton Hill at the foot of the old Leith Wynd. To make way for the expansion of Waverley Station, all the buildings were demolished in 1848 under the supervision of David Bryce, and the numbered stones were stored on Calton Hill., 'not withstanding the strongest remonstrances against so irreverent and sacrilegious an act' (Wilson p244). A caloptype by David Octavius Hill (Holmes p18) taken shortly before demolition of the church shows the area where the hospital stood, apparently being used as a stone-mason's yard. Rebuilding of the choir and apse, without aisles, in the present site began in 1872 and the architect, John Lessels, was able to incorporate about a third of the original stones. Some of these numbered stones can still be seen in the walls however many of the stones disappeared before they could be reused. The religious and political instability of the Reformation period during the 16th century meant that churches were frequently the focus of violence and possibly accounts for the fact that the traceried windows in the apse do not all remain intact today.

The jambs of the chimneypiece on the inside of the W gable are thought to have come from the house of one John Hope which stood between Chalmer's and Barringer's Closes. This house was being demolished at the time of building the new church and the sculpture on capitals contains the following domestic scenes: 'There is, first, a youth in the guise of a wanderer, with his wallet by his side, sitting on a bank talking with a young shepherdess, and between them is a sporting lamb. In the second the pair have got closer together, and sit hand in hand. The third scene represents a family group; the parents are seated, and are evidently endeavouring to pacify a crying child; while the fourth scene shows each with a child in arms' (MacGibbon and Ross C & D Arch. pp490-1). A comparable example of such a chimneypiece is at the Palace of Linlithgow in the south range and another similar fragment exists at the Bishop's Palace at Dunblane.

The new church extension by Lessels was added in 1872-77 but this Victorian addition was demolished in 1964 and the N arcade filled in. The stone fragments salvaged from the old building set within the present curtilage, the decoration on the interior of the apse and the apse itself, provide a glimpse of the very fine quality of the 15th century Scottish middle pointed or decorated Gothic architecture that was once exemplified by the whole of Trinity College Church. Other fragments of carved stone from Trinity College Church can be found at Lady Stair's House Museum and Craigcook Castle.

The Trinity altarpiece of the late 1470s by Hugo van der Goes, known as the Trinity Panels, is a diptych painted on both sides commissioned by Edward Bonkil. The panels depict the Holy Trinity; Bonkil and two angels; James III, King of Scots and his son James (?) and St Andrew; Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scots and St George (?). Originally the piece may have been a triptych, the centre panel probably depicting the Virgin and Child and presumably destroyed during the Reformation. The panels, displayed on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, are described as 'the most important surviving altarpiece ever to have been commissioned for Scotland.' (NGS p64)

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