Standing anonymously amongst the gable ends and gothic pleasure palaces of the Royal Mile, too often passed by tourists and holidaymakers, is the final home of John Knox, the leader of the Reformation in Scotland.
The Reformation here, which came to a head with the drafting of a Protestant Confession of Faith by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1560, is crucial in understanding Scotland's history. It is interesting in its divergence with the experience of England - while England's monarchy rejected Papal supremacy more out of convenience than design in the first instance, and maintains an Established Protestant Church with elements of Apostolic Succession and Catholic rites, Scotland's reformation was considerably more dogmatic, ideological and fiery.
Knox, who studied under John Calvin in Geneva prior to the Scottish Reformation, espoused a very continental Protestantism, and the radical changes in church governance (Presbyterianism is still the national religion, though not the established one), imbue Scotland with a religious infrastructure which is much closer to that of Northern Europe than of England. More than this, the ideas themselves, which have defined Scotland's view of itself, and its moral purpose and character over the past 500 years, are defined by European Reformed theology, and in particular, Calvinism; in Scotland, and Edinburgh, scene of some of the worst fighting of the Reformation period, the very air one breathes is one of Calvinism, and it is this link that, at least partly, gives Edinburgh a distinctly European vibe.
The house now functions as a museum charting the life of John Knox.