World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard
Year established 1561 - 1562
Location Old Town, Edinburgh
Country Scotland, UK
Type Public
Owned by City of Edinburgh Council
Size ?

Greyfriars Kirkyard is the listed building.[1]


  • History 1
    • Greyfriars Bobby 1.1
  • Monuments 2
  • Alleged paranormal activities 3
  • Notable burials 4
  • Gallery 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Greyfriars takes its name from the Franciscan friary on the site, which was dissolved in 1559. The churchyard was founded in 1561/2, to replace the churchyard at St Giles, which was considered full. A record from the Town Council records for 23 April 1561 reads:

Because it is thoct gude that thair be na buriall within the Kirk, and that the kirk-zaird is nocht of sufficient rowme for bureing of the deid, and for esdrewing of the savour and inconvenientis that may follow thairupon in the heit of somer, it would be providit that ane buriall place be maid farrer from the myddis of the town, sic as in the Greyfreir zaird and the somyn biggit and maid close.[2]
Because it is thought beneficial that there should be no more burials within the church [ie St Giles], and because that kirkyard is not thought to have sufficient room for burying the dead, and taking into consideration the smell and inconvenience in the heat of summer, it would be provided [by the council] that a burial place be made further from the middle of town, such as in Greyfriars yard, and the same [should be] built up and made secure.
Hill & Adamson photograph dated 1848, showing D O Hill sketching at the Dennystoun Monument, watched by the Misses Morris.

The Kirkyard was involved in the history of the Covenanters. The Covenanting movement began with signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirk on 28 February 1638. Following the defeat of the militant Covenanters at Bothwell Brig in 1679, some 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned in a field to the south of the churchyard. When, in the 18th century, part of this field was amalgamated into the churchyard as vaulted tombs the area became known as the "Covenanters' Prison".

During the early days of photography in the 1840s the kirkyard was used by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson as a setting for several portraits and tableaux such as The Artist and The Gravedigger.

Greyfriars Bobby

The graveyard is associated with

  • Greyfriars Kirkyard Trust
  • Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk

External links

  1. ^ "Greyfriars Churchyard".  
  2. ^ Edinburgh Council Records 23rd April 1561
  3. ^
  4. ^ Gifford, John (1989) William Adam 1689–1748, Mainstream Publishing / RIAS. pp.62–67
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b unknown (29 September 2006). "Moat Haunted".  
  7. ^ Clydesdale, Lyndsay (30 October 2006). "Spooky Scotland".  



Monument to John Mylne, erected by his nephew Robert

Notable burials

Since 1998, when a homeless person broke into Mackenzie's mausoleum for the night, Greyfriars Churchyard has been the epicentre of an escalation of unexplained events linked to the ghost of Mackenzie; known colloquially as the Mackenzie Poltergeist. The Mackenzie Poltergeist has been called the most well-documented paranormal phenomenon in the world.[6] Even before 1999, there had been reports of unusual disturbances in the graveyard. Between 1990 and 2006 there were 350 reported attacks and 170 reports of people collapsing.[7] Visitors reported being cut, bruised, bitten, scratched and most commonly blacking out. Some complained later of bruises, scratches and gouge-marks on their bodies. Most attacks and feelings of unease occurred in MacKenzie's Black Mausoleum and the Covenantors Prison. In 2000, an exorcist, Colin Grant was summoned to the graveyard to perform an exorcism ceremony; he was said to have picked up "evil forces" and claimed that the forces were too overpowering and feared that they could kill him. A few weeks later, he died suddenly of a heart attack.[6] Edinburgh City Council closed off that part of the cemetery until an Edinburgh-based historian and author, Jan Andrew Henderson, persuaded the council to allow controlled visits to that part of the churchyard and in turn this developed into a nocturnal guided tour, which became a local attraction. Greyfriars Churchyard and, in particular, MacKenzie's Poltergeist, have been featured on paranormal TV programmes, including Fox's Scariest Places on Earth, and ITV's Extreme Ghost Stories.

Alleged paranormal activities

Tomb of Sir George Mackenzie

Notable monuments include the Martyr's Monument, which commemorates executed Covenanters. The Italianate monument to James Smith, and modelled on the Tempietto di San Pietro, designed by Donato Bramante.[4] Duncan Ban MacIntyre's memorial was renovated in 2005, at a cost of about £3,000, raised by a fundraising campaign of over a year.[5] The monument of John Byres of Coates, 1629, was one of last works of the royal master mason William Wallace.

Enclosed vaults are found mainly on the south edge of the graveyard and in the "Covenanters' Prison". These either have solid stone walls or iron railings and were created as a deterrent to grave robbing, which had become a problem in the eighteenth century. Greyfriars also has two low ironwork cages, called mortsafes. These were leased, and protected bodies for long enough to deter the attentions of the early nineteenth century resurrection men who supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection.

Mortsafes to deter 'resurrectionists' from exhuming the dead before the 1832 Anatomy Act regulated the legal supply of corpses for medical purposes.



This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.