Towards the end of the Chambers Restoration, a friend of Dr James Cameron Lees, the Minister of St Giles,’ offered to present the Cathedral with a new baptismal font. He wished to remain anonymous, and his name has never been revealed, but it was agreed that John
Rhind would carve the font from Caen stone, the same material that he had used to make the pulpit. It is in the form of an angel, holding out a shell to contain the baptismal water, and it is an exact copy of one by the great Danish neoclassical sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Thorvaldsen carved it from white marble and presented it, as his gift, to Denmark’s Lutheran national cathedral, Our Lady Church, where it stands to this day at the east end, in front of his famous statue of Christ.
Initially Rhind’s font was placed near the pulpit in St Giles, but during the following year, 1884, it was moved to the south aisle, near the west door, and surrounded by a brass rail. Traditionally, fonts have been sited near a church’s main door, symbolising the entry of the baptismal baby into the Christian Church. In 1913, however, the font was moved into the recess in the Albany Aisle, for greater convenience, but when the Albany Aisle became a memorial chapel to the Fallen in the two World Wars, it was placed near the west door again. There it remained until 2015, when it was put in its present position between the Holy Cross Aisle and the door to the Cathedral shop. Since then, baptisms take place at the Holy Table, with the water in a silver bowl.