IT is one of the city's best- known historic buildings, with its crown spire standing high above Parliament Square half way up the Royal Mile.

But officials at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh have drawn up plans to carve the name of the imposing structure into the building outside its main western facing door.

St Giles himself is currently depicted above the main door protecting a deer in a relief which rests in the decorative arched tympanum.

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Now cathedral officials plan to cut out the title St Giles' Cathedral into the stonework alongside the subtle interpretation of the generous saint.

One heritage source said the move would be opposed despite there having been many alterations to the A-listed building over more than five centuries.

The source said: "How many people come to Edinburgh and don't know what St Giles' Cathedral is?

"It is not something that is necessary."

It is understood the firm that would carry out the work is one of the best in the UK. One leading architect based in the Scottish capital, James Simpson, of Simpson and Brown, said he believed the Cambridge-based Cardozo Kindersley Workshop to be leaders in the field.

He said: "I think what is proposed is clear. It is well designed and will be ­beautifully done."

The cathedral's Kirk Session, made up of senior figures in the parish, has lodged a planning application for the carving with Edinburgh City Council.

The application has been made under rules for listed buildings, with the planning document stating it is for: "The letters St Giles' Cathedral to be cut in situ into the upper course of masonry at the west door ramp."

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said many tourists still ask the name of the building.

He said: "The cathedral welcomes over 900,000 visitors per year but many of those visitors don't know what the building is.

"The Kirk Session does think it's important that people should know from the outside.

"The design will fit in with the feel of the building as a whole and will be carved by one of the foremost stonemasons in the world."

There is record of a parish church in Edinburgh by the year 854 and it was subsequently reconsecrated and named in honour of the patron saint of the city, St Giles.

The fact that St Giles, a 7th century hermit and, later, abbot who lived in France, became the patron of both city and church was probably due to the ties between Scotland and France.

According to legend, Giles was accidentally wounded by a huntsman in pursuit of a hind and, after his death in the early eighth century, hospitals and safe houses for the poor and needy were established in his name.

The Gothic-style 14th-century cathedral's most notable feature is its crown spire, which is said to have once sheltered nesting storks and can be seen from many parts of the city.

St Giles' contains almost 200 memorials honouring distinguished Scots and Scottish soldiers as well as a notable collection of stained glass windows.

The cathedral also houses the Thistle Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, ­traditionally given to Scots or people of Scots ancestry who have given distinguished service.

In 1559, at the height of the Reformation, Protestant leader John Knox was appointed minister at the cathedral.