Stirling Castle, Scotland, Part 6: The Great Hall & The Chapel Royal

Last week, we visited the Douglas Gardens and Wall-walk at Stirling Castle. Today we're touring the Great Hall and Chapel Royal.

King James IV commissioned the building of the Great Hall from 1500 to 1503. At the time, this building, designed for banqueting, dancing, feasts and celebrations, was the largest and grandest of its kind in Scotland. A tower stood here previously but it was demolished and its stones reused. 
The Great Hall and the gorgeous hammerbeam ceiling
 The original hammerbeam roof was removed at the end of the 1700s, but then replaced in 1999 during the restoration. It is an amazing and beautiful construction modeled on the original ceiling in Edinburgh Castle's Great Hall.
The king and queen would've sat here at the high table's dias. Notice everyone else had benches.
King James VI hosted an extravagant banquet in the Great Hall in August 1594 for the baptism of his oldest son, Prince Henry. The fish course was served from a large model ship, 5 meters long by 12 meters tall, floating on an artificial sea, with 36 brass firing cannons.

Four pairs of tall windows decorate and light this end of the room by where the king and queen sat.

 The style of the great hall is medieval, and it was lit by windows placed high on the walls. At the south end where the king, queen and high ranking nobles would’ve sat on the dias at the high table, large beautiful bay windows brighten the area.

Click this photo to enlarge, see the detail and even the cannons outside on the Grand Battery along with the wonderful view over the Stirling countryside.

In the late 1700s the Great Hall was divided and partitioned off into rooms for soldiers' barracks. Stirling was used for the military until 1964 when restoration of the original castle started. Restoration took 35 years.

Seating for the king and queen during banquets.

  The great hall was heated by five fireplaces. The king’s fireplace is located behind his chair. Four spiral staircases lead up to the trumpeters’ gallery, and to the minstrels’ gallery.

Click this photo to enlarge enough to read.

Click this photo to enlarge.
Click to enlarge and see the detail of the Great Hall's exterior.
Turns out I didn't get any great photos of the exterior of the Great Hall. Maybe because there were always so many people around. :) Anyway, the above photo shows part of the Great Hall's exterior. It is a beautiful golden beige color which is very different from all the other buildings at Stirling.

Right next to the Great Hall is the Chapel Royal.

Click to enlarge

King James VI had the Chapel Royal build in 1594 for the baptism of his first son, Prince Henry. The construction took only seven months. This was the last royal building to be built at Stirling. An older chapel stood nearby and had to be demolished. You can still see the outline of the older building on the cobbles of the Inner Close (above).

The exterior front of the Chapel Royal beside the Great Hall and the Wall-walk.

Click to enlarge and see the detail.
 The doorway and windows were inspired by the Classical Renaissance. Historians say the ceiling was decorated in gold and that the walls contained artfully painted scenes. The chapel was no longer used after James VI and his court moved to London in 1603, when he succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as King of England. He only returned to Scotland for one visit.

Click to enlarge.
The beautiful murals were painted by Valentine Jenkin in 1628-29 in preparation for a royal visit. The above interior frieze includes a trompe l'oeil window and Honors of Scotland (crown jewels) and the symbol CR1 which indicates Carolus Rex, the Latin name for King Charles I.

Charles I became king upon his father's death in 1625

James VI & I's eldest son, Henry, died at age 18. So his younger son, Charles I became king. He visited Stirling in 1633 – the year of his coronation in Scotland. Just before his visit, a flurry of work was completed to refurbish the chapel, palace and the King’s Knot gardens were constructed. The 1633 visit by King Charles I was the last visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland until Queen Victoria over two hundred years later.

Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560. The Chapel Royal at Stirling was one of the first Protestant kirks in Scotland.

Click to enlarge these signs.

After Charles' visit in 1633, the Chapel Royal fell into neglect. Later, the army moved in. They converted the chapel to meet their needs. Builders put in floors and partitions. By the 1700s, the original murals had disappeared behind new plain walls. Part of the building was still used as a chapel by the late 1800s. The rest of the building had been converted to things like a general store, a dining room, a classroom and an armoury. In the 1930s, the original murals were discovered and restored. By 1996, the chapel’s restoration was complete.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Stirling Castle and highly recommend it as an unforgettable, fascinating place to visit. This finishes my series on this castle. I hope you enjoyed it. If you missed the previous ones, first check out last week's post. I've included links there to the four previous posts.
Thanks for visiting! :)

The first book in my Highland Adventure series is only 2.99 at Amazon. This series begins in 1618 during the reign of King James VI & I. The king and his court are involved in the plot of both this book and the second book, My Wild Highlander.

My Fierce Highlander: Gwyneth Carswell, an English lady banished by her father to the harsh Scottish Highlands, wants nothing more than to take her young son away from the violence of two fighting clans--her own distant kin, the MacIrwins, and their enemies, the MacGraths. She risks everything to rescue the fierce MacGrath warrior from the battlefield where he’s left for dead by her clan. She only knows she is inexplicably drawn to him and he wants peace as she does. When her clan learns of her betrayal, they seek vengeance. Dare she trust the enemy more than her own family?

Laird Alasdair MacGrath is driven to end two-hundred years of feuding with the MacIrwins. But by taking in and protecting Lady Gwyneth and her son, he provokes more attacks from his mortal enemy. As the danger and conflict surrounding them escalate, Alasdair and Gwyneth discover an explosive passion neither of them expected. With the arrival of a powerful man from her past, a horrible decision confronts her--give up her son or the man she loves.


Carly Carson said...

Great pictures and commentary. Those thrones don't look too comfortable, do they? It always strikes me that the average person today lives better than a King did back then. That's progress to me.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Carly! No they don't look comfortable at all. LOL They may have had padded cushions on them?? Can't say for sure but I know they did have some padded chairs back then. Most likely a king would insist on being comfortable, considering the extravagance of some things they had.

Angelyn said...

They've really done a lot with the interior since I last visited. Stirling is one of my favorite places in Scotland--I really ought to get back there. Your pictures proved that!

Cathleen Ross said...

Thank you for this wonderful pos about Scotland, a country I haven't managed to visit yet, but is on my bucket list. Your descriptions are wonderful.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Hi Angelyn, I hope you get to go back soon. Stirling is awesome! So much history.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Cathleen! It is definitely worth the cost and discomfort of jetlag to visit Scotland. :) It's a wonderful and beautiful place. But be warned, once you visit you may become addicted. :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

We also had a full day at Stirling Castle. These photos brought back so many memories. Hubby said he was surprised the first thing I remembered wasn't Drumgray...had a taste of the drink in a gift store and -- well, he bought me the largest bottle they had and I brought a taste of Scotland home with me. :)

That ceiling was unbelievable, wasn't it? We found the coat of arms from my two family coats and amazingly they turned out.

I agree that this place is a must. I loved the fake people in the kitchen, too. Thanks for sharing the photos, Vonda. You know I have tears because I so want to be there again.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks for checking it out, Paisley! I haven't tried Drumgray, but I fell in love with Bruadar which is a mixture of whisky, honey and sloeberries. Even people who don't normally like whisky like this stuff. Shipping is too expensive to order from here though. LOL

Yes, that hammerbeam ceiling was one of the highlights of the great hall. Amazing!

We somehow missed the kitchen, which I was disappointed about.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Drumgray has the consistency of Bailey's Irish Creme, and amazingly it sort of tastes of chocolate to me. Loved it - you're right. Being you have to buy it in Scotland, it would be a heavy price to pay for postage.

Gerri Bowen said...

Your photos are wonderful, Vonda. Thank you for sharing.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Paisley, I'll have to look for some of that Drumgray next time. I love chocolate, of course! :)

Gerri, thanks so much for checking them out!