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Welcome to St. John’s Kirk of Perth, one of Scotland’s most important burgh churches . It is Perth’s most ancient building, and sits at the very centre of the old Royal Burgh. Its unique broach spire has dominated Perth for over 500 years
St. John’s Kirk of Perth is a 4 Star Visit Scotland Tourist AttractionHistory.
The first historical reference to a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist in Perth was in 1126, in a grant from King David I. However there is archaeological evidence of a church on this site three centuries earlier. As befitted the importance of the Burgh Kirk of the capital of Scotland, the heart of King Alexander III was buried here in 1286, following his untimely death on the cliffs at Kinghorn in Fife, which precipitated Scotland into the Wars of Independence. King Robert the Bruce, the ultimate victor of that conflict, is among the many Scottish monarchs who contributed to the construction or alteration of St. John’s. It is Perth’s oldest surviving building, and is the centrepiece of Perth’s built environment.
In 843 AD, Kenneth MacAlpine defeated the Picts in a battle near Perth and united the two main competing kingdoms of mainland Scotland to establish the first nation-state in Europe, and become the first King of Scots. For the next 600 years, Perth was de facto the capital of Scotland. It was where coronations took place, where the king lived and international treaties were negotiated and signed, and where Scotland’s Parliaments and Church Councils were convened.
In the mid 15th century, Perth’s growing importance and wealth stimulated the staged re-construction of the church. The choir was probably complete by 1448, when the High Altar was consecrated, and the transepts and crossing followed soon after. In the 1490s King James IV funded the construction of the nave, and it is known for certain that the tower and spire were completed before 1511, because in that year the contract for the tower of Aberdeen’s St. Machar’s Cathedral cited St. John’s as a model to copy – an indication of its civic and architectural importance.
In many early documents, especially in those of the 16th century, the city is referred to by its alternative name, “St. Johnstoun” (St. John’s town), and the symbol of St. John the Baptist – the lamb carrying a staff and banner – featured on the heraldic shield of the City of Perth from mediaeval times until 1975.