Holy Trinity Collegiate Church Edinburgh

This church stood in the hollow between the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, on the west side of Leith Wynd. It was founded by Mary of Gueldres, Queen of James II., shortly after that king’s death in 1460, the charter of erection being dated 1462. The edifice was dedicated to the “honour and praise of the Holy Trinity, to the ever blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, to St Ninian the Confessor, and to all the saints and elect people of God”. (Wilson’s memorials of Edinburgh, Vol II.)

Connected with the college was “Trinity Hospital” also founded by Queen Mary of Gueldres for the poor and needy.

A collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons. This college does not belong to a monastic order but is are secular clergy living in community under . Usually their primary purpose was to celebrate the Divine Office in choir but they would also take part in pastoral work. The canons at Holy Trinity were involved in the running of Trinity Hospital


The church was an impressive building and was famous for one of the most important altarpieces ever painted for a Scottish chapel. Held in the National Gallery, the panels that remain are thought to have been the wings of a triptych. The work was commissioned by Edward Bonkil, Provost of the Collegiate Church. The missing central panel possibly showed the Virgin and Child Enthroned, and may have been destroyed during the Reformation. When open, the wings show a devout King James III with his elder son and his queen Margaret of Denmark, accompanied by St Andrew and St George. The lion rampant on the king’s coat of arms is reversed in deference to the holy figures on the missing central panel. The closed wings feature a vision of the Holy Trinity appearing to the kneeling Edward Bonkil. From National Galleries

Artist: Hugo Van der Goes

After the reformation Holy Trinity had an eventful history ending up serving the people of the north east quarter of Edinburgh as the parish church until the land was bought by the North British Railway Company. On the 14th May 1848 the last service was held in the church and the buildings were taken down to make way for the Waverly Station. The stones were numbered and stored on the slopes of Calton Hill for use when a new site was found. There then followed twenty plus years of legal wranglings between various factions in the Town Coucil and between the Town Council and the Law authorities regarding the amounts and allocations of the compenstation from the North British Railway Company.

Finally work started on building the new church in 1871 at the new site in Jeffrey Street and was completed in October 1877. The stones that had been marked and kept on the Calton Hill had suffered from twenty years of pilfering and damage which resulted in only one third of the original stonework being available for use on the new church. These stones that were left were used to build the apse at the south end of the new building.

The bell from Holy Trinity

The bell from Holy Trinity was for many years situated in the bell tower of St John’s Church of Scotland in Oxgangs before it was demolished to make way for a new supermarket.

It is now located at Bonaly Scout Campsite in Colinton on the lower reaches of the Pentland Hills.

The plaque by the bell at bonaly reads, ” Our bell was originally cast in 1460 in Holland; it was recast in 1639 and installed in Holy Trinity College Church which was demolished in 1848 to make way for the Waverly Station. It then moved to Leith and then to St Johns Church Oxgangs. When St Johns church closed at the end of 2013 the Bell was gifted to Bonaly by the Church of Scotland Presbytery. It was erected by the Bonaly ASU in November 2014 and will continue to be used as an instrument for calling people together as it has done for the last 550 years”