Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Canongate Mercat Cross

An EWH grant has helped to highlight an over-looked piece of the Canongate’s history.

May 31, 2011

The Mercat Cross stands in the Canongate Kirkyard on the Royal Mile, but until now there was nothing to explain its significance. Local resident Alasdair Fairbairn campaigned for some recognition of the medieval relic, and with funding from the Friends of Canongate Kirkyard and Edinburgh World Heritage a plaque has now been installed.

Alasdair said: “Although attracting attention, there was nothing to indicate that it was a market cross or gives any of its history. Situated at a corner of the Canongate Kirkyard, many might think that it marks a grave! With its scenic background, the cross’ enclosure should stop passers-by in their tracks in admiration and draw many into the historic graveyard”.

From 1128 until the 1850s the Canongate at the end of the Royal Mile, was a completely separate burgh to Edinburgh. Amongst the surviving relics of that period is the Mercat Cross, which originally marked the location of the burgh market. It was also fitted with chains and a neckpiece (known as the ‘joogs’) so it could serve as a pillory for offenders.

Originally the cross was sited in the middle of the street, but it was moved in 1737 to beside the Canongate Tolbooth and finally came to its present location in 1953. The area around the cross is now being considered as a location for more interpretation panels describing the history and architecture of the Canongate.

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