John Livingston's Tomb – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Edinburgh, Scotland

John Livingston's Tomb

Nestled among the living residents is the final resting place of an apothecary plague victim. 

John Livingston was an apothecary who was living in what was considered the outskirts of Edinburgh during the middle of the 17th century. Unfortunately for him, this was during a period of time that was rife with pestilence and disease.

It didn’t help matters that Livingston’s occupation brought him closer to people who were ill and seeking his expertise. What’s more, it was the custom of health officials to take the infected outside the city walls to avoid further contamination. He himself fell victim to the Black Death in 1645 and passed away at the age of 53.

Livingston is today the sole occupant of this burial plot, as it was his residence for a very short period of time. (Records show he purchased the property in 1636.) The out-of-the-ordinary particulars as to how he is the sole inhabitant may have to do with the practice of burying plague victims where they perished.

Today, Livingston’s resting place is a charming enclosed courtyard with lush greenery and a bench to sit on and reflect on one’s good fortunes. The inscribed headstone is marked with an epitaph with a Latin inscription: Mors patet; Hora Latet: “Death is sure; the hour obscure.”

Know Before You Go

The grave is situated not far from the aptly named "Holy Corner" (due to the presence of three churches) at Bruntsfield Place, in the area that is known as Morningside. The property belongs to the city council and there is a gate that may be locked. It is best viewed during the daylight hours so you can read the tombstone and accompanying plaque.

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