Kirk is now home to the congregation of Greyfriar Tolbooth
and Highland Kirk. It took its name from the pre-reformation
Francian friary which stood nearby.
Greyfriar's Kirk was the first church to be built in Edinburgh
after the Reformation and was opened in 1620.
It plays a significant role in Scottish history because
it was here, in front of the pulpit, that the National
Covenant was presented and signed in 1638, This was an
extremely important document in Scottish history and an
original copy can be seen in the visitor's centre. The
kirk was used as a barracks from 1650 to 1653 during Oliver
Cromwell's invasion of Scotland.
It was also here that over twelve hundred Covenanters were
imprisoned in 1679 awaiting their fate, over one hundred
were hung at the Grassmarket and many were deported overseas
as slaves. The Covenanters prison still exists in Greyfriar's
Town Council stored its gunpowder in the
kirk and in 1781 the Western side of the
Kirk was blown up in an accident. The west
side was rebuild in 1721 adding two extra
bays in the original style.
gutted the Kirk in 1845 and detroyed the furnishings and
roof. Restoration took many years to complete and a new
single span roof was installed along with the first stained
glass windows in a Scottish parish church since the reformation.
Later, in 1860 it was also the first Presbyterian church
to have an organ installed to accompany singing.