"St. Giles Cathedral"
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Knox Window The Leaders of the Reformation 
At the forefront of the Reformation were the Lords of the Congregation, a group of  powerful nobles who were in favour of the Reformed faith. John Knox (1506?-72) was the most prominent Scottish churchman involved. He had been born near Edinburgh and had been ordained as a priest. Having doubts about the Church he visited St Andrews University, where he became a follower of the protestant leader, George Wishart. Wishart was burnt at the stake in 1546 and Knox was exiled, first as a galley slave and then to the English court. 

St Giles' during the Reformation
In 1559 Knox led the Lords of the Congregation into Edinburgh and was installed as minister of St Giles'. Knox played a principle role in establishing the styles of worship and administration that were to be accepted throughout the country.

Knox and the Reformers split the interior of St Giles' into many rooms, dividing the congregation of Edinburgh and allowing the building to be used for a wide range of purposes. During the next 300 years the building housed a police station, a fire station, a school and a coal store. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met here, as did the Parliament and the Burgh and City Councils. The Scottish guillotine, the 'Maiden', was housed in the church, and in one corner was a prison used for "harlots and whores".

Although it is commonly assumed that St Giles' and most other Scottish churches were 'cleansed'  by riots, there is little evidence to support this. Burgh records show that it took over a year to convert St Giles' for Reformed worship. The building was not looted, and few if any windows were destroyed immediately.

When Knox died in 1572 he was buried in the old graveyard that then stood to the south of the church. This area now forms part of Parliament Close.