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John Knox statues in Scotland


Scottish religious reformer John Knox (1505-1572) is renowned for his fiery sermons and his equally fiery relationship with Mary Queen of Scots. We take a look at the various John Knox statues in Scotland.

Who was John Knox?

John Knox was born near Edinburgh in 1505 and was educated at the University of St Andrews and University of Glasgow. He was ordained as a priest some time before 1540 and was heavily influenced by the sermons of reformer and martyr George Wishart.

After spending 19 months as a galley slave when he was captured by the French at St Andrews Castle, Knox spent time in mainland Europe, returning to Scotland in 1555. When the Reformed Protestant religion was ratified by law in 1560 he became a minister at St Giles in Edinburgh, a position which put him at odds with Mary Queen of Scots, who attended the church to hear his sermons.

Knox is the author of History of the Reformation, a five-volume work written between 1559 and 1566.

1. St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

It is not surprising that a statue of John Knox stands within St Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The cathedral's kirkyard (now a car park) was Knox’s burial place and during his lifetime, was the location for many of his fiery sermons, some of which greatly offended his enemy Mary Queen of Scots.

Knox was minister of the Cathedral from 1560 until his death in 1572 and the imposing statue originally stood in the north-west of the Albany Aisle. It was created in 1902 following a campaign for Knox to be remembered. The £1,400 cost was met by public subscription and the statue was created by Scottish sculptor Pittendrigh MacGillivray RSA.

The six-foot-tall bronze statue was unveiled on 12 November 1906 and stood under a sandstone arch. In 1965, when Albany Aisle was converted into a war memorial chapel, the Knox statue was moved to a position on Parliament Square, but due to fears of weather damage was moved again in 1983 to the north wall of the cathedral nave, where it still stands today.

2. Glasgow Necropolis

At the Glasgow Necropolis burial ground, a stone statue of John Knox stands on the city’s second highest hill. The statue, designed by William Warren, shows Knox wearing his Geneva gown and holding a Bible in his right hand. This was the first statue of Knox to be created in Scotland and its unveiling ceremony, on 22 September 1825 attracted crowds of up to 10,000 who gathered to watch some 300 subscribers process from Trades Hall to St Georges Church for the ceremony.

The base of the column on which the statue stands has several inscriptions, with the following inscribed on the south side:

The Reformation produced a revolution in the sentiment of mankind the greatest as well as the most beneficial that has happened since the publication of Christianity.

The statue predates the Glasgow Necropolis in which is stands, which was officially opened in 1833.

3. New College, Edinburgh

A dramatic statue of John Knox with right hand raised aloft stands in the New College quadrangle on Mount Place, Edinburgh. The statue stands on a red sandstone pedestal and was created by sculptor J Hutchison RSA in 1896.

The wording on the front of the pedestal reads: JOHN KNOX / 1514-1572 / ERECTED BY SCOTSMEN WHO ARE / MINDFUL OF THE BENEFITS CONFERRED / BY JOHN KNOX ON THEIR NATIVE LAND / 1896.

MORE: Bitter enemies? John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots

New College and St Giles Cathedral © Kim Traynor; Glasgow Necropolis © Chris Downer.

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