A Second Journey: Reformation Tour Through Edinburgh, Part 2

Just outside of the courthouse is a parking lot, with a small plaque on one spot marking the grave of… can you believe it, John Knox. The burial place of one of Scotland’s most prominent character’s of its history, most notably church history, is now a parking space. There wasn’t even a plaque to mark the spot until quite recently! His original burial marker does survive in Saint Gile’s Cathedral, just around the corner. First established in the 12th century, Saint Giles was once a Catholic place of worship, but became a Presbyterian church during the Scottish reformation in the 1500s, and was under the pastoral care of John Knox.
Greyfriars Kirk Yard was our next destination. It is most famous for its ghost stories and Greyfriars Bobbie, a small dog who sat on his owners grave for years after his owner died and was buried there. It is highly significant for covenanter history. It was the location of the first signing of the National Covenant; we sat on the very grave where it was laid to be signed and took a picture together there. It was also the make-shift prison for 1200 protestant prisoners after the battle of Bothwell Bridge in 16 something. With no prison that could accommodate such a large number, the authorities placed the 1200 in a gated area within Greyfriars Kirk Yard. The prisoners stayed there, behind that gate, with no shelter and very little food for four months. By the time those months had passed, three quarters of them had died off due to exposure and starvation. The remaining quarter was sold to a merchant as slaves.
One of the more notable graves at Greyfriars Kirk is that of Alexander Henderson, who was another giant of the Scottish faith. Henderson was a protestant preacher who died of natural causes, before a king, who very much disliked him, was able to finish him off. Frustrated, said king ordered that soldiers go to his grave and destroy it as best they could. Evidently, the soldiers thought the task rather silly and gave only a half-hearted attempt at demolishing it, as it still stands, granted with quite a few scars from sword slashes and musket balls.
Lastly, we went to the Grass market, a center of trade in Edinburgh as well as the place of execution for many criminals, which included over a hundred covenanters. For some, their only crime was attending a church field meeting, or carrying a Bible. Their bodies are buried along with the other criminals of the time in a mass grave at Greyfriars.
It was heart wrenching and stunning to think of the trust these people had in God. The price of THEIR faith was something more than a few strange looks from coworkers or snide comments about one’s belief in traditional marriage. These covenanters were prepared to sacrifice their farms, family, physical comfort/well-being, and their very lives to glorify God by clinging to His promises. Merely possessing a Bible risked torture, imprisonment, and execution, and yet, they continued to carry and proclaim God’s word, considering it of much greater value even than the breath in their bodies. Now, their testimony stands firm and bright as a lighthouse, beaming through centuries and circumstance to shed light on Scotland’s spiritual situation today, and encourage saints all over the world to remain steadfast and stalwart in God’s word, no matter where or when.
I am certainly encouraged, and I hope you are too.

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