St Salvators Chapel - History and Facts | History Hit

St Salvators Chapel

St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom

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About St Salvators Chapel

St Salvators Chapel is one of two collegiate chapels belonging to the University of St Andrews founded in the mid-15th century. The site is well known for its significance during the Scottish Reformation, as the site where Lutheran reformer and martyr Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake in 1528.

His face is said to have been burnt into the stone walls of the Chapel, a popular historical attraction to this day.

St Salvators Chapel history

Founded in 1450 by Bishop James Kennedy, the chapel was constructed in a late Gothic architectural style. While the chapel originally served as an educational institution, St Salvators stands out among the many similar medieval foundations of Europe. Unlike the colleges of Oxford and the continent, Kennedy’s institution was very much a part of the local community.

The main entrance to the chapel faces out onto the street and not into the college courtyard. From its beginnings, the building had a dual role both as the college chapel and as a collegiate church serving the wider community.

Despite the violent religious history in St Andrews, the chapel remains a central focus for worship both within the University and for the wider public. Nevertheless, history has left its marks upon the building.

Outside the chapel on the 29th February 1528, the Protestant reformer Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake. The initials ‘PH’ set into the cobbles marks outside the front gate of the site signify where the event took place.

Local tradition adds a twist to this gruesome history with many suggestions that the mysterious face carved into the stonework of the college tower high above the gateway is that of the martyred 24-year-old.

The Chapel today

Throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries St Salvators Chapel saw further work carried out on its architectural structure.

Thus the chapel of today is a mixture of old and new – bearing the scars of religious strife and mistreatment in the Middle Ages but nevertheless a beautiful, living building that is much used by the students and staff of the University.

Getting to St Salvators Chapel

St Salvators Chapel is located on the south end of the University of St Andrews, on North Street. Bus services run to down this street and there are on-street parking bays in the vicinity.

Alternatively, one can park in two of the nearby car parks located at St Andrews Castle and at Murry Place.

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