The Glories of Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland

Every great city should have a great Cathedral.  Ideally, it should be basically medieval and have little or no distressing Victorian ‘renovation’.

Helloooo Glasgow Cathedral!

The High Kirk, or St Mungo’s Cathedral, was said to have been founded by St Kentigern (popularly known as Mungo) in the 6th/7th century.  Basically nothing survives from the earlier churches, and the current form is essentially 13th/14th century.  While the building work started in the 13th century, the work slowed down considerably during the Wars of Independence, when the bishop was accused of using the timber intended for the cathedral to make siege engines to fight the English Edward I’s army.  Works then began again in earnest in the late 14th century.

Unfortunately, the cathedral was struck by lightning in 1406, which meant a large portion of the early 1400s was spent doing the necessary repair work.  This was important, not least because by the 15th century Glasgow had become the second most signifiant religious centre in Scotland and the city’s first archbishop, Robert Blackadder, was all for encouraging pilgrims to visit.  He went about prettifying the interior and started building a new space for the remains of St Mungo.  All that he managed to complete was the southern ‘Blackadder’ aisle.

The cathedral was desecrated by the Protestants during the Reformation, but it managed to survive – a unique feat in Scotland – and with support from the city of Glasgow was repaired, and seems to have toddled on till the 19th century.  Ah the 19th century!  So many bad things were done in the name of ‘restoration’.  First of all, there were repairs that needed to be made – including on two corner towers.  These were got rid of, before the authorities realised they couldn’t afford to rebuild them.  It was during this period that the traces of improvements from the post-medieval period were also got rid of so that a more authentic interior remained.  Apparently.

The Pulpitum

The quire screen or pulpitum, which separated the nave and the choir, is unique in being the only one from the pre-Reformation to have survived in Scotland.  It was added by Archbishop Blacader in 1503, and yes, his name really was Blacader.  Actually, they spelt it Blackadder in the church, so we’ll go with that.  And yes, he probably is a relation of Rowan Atkinson.

Lower Church

Blackadder was also responsible for further work in the cathedral, with the Blackadder Aisle in the lower church.  This is accessible from steps in front of the quire screen.  The lower church originally held the relics of St Kentigern, which were removed during the late Middle Ages, but are back now.  There is also a little exhibition of archaeological objects and some lovely monuments.

Memorials

Throughout the cathedral there were lots of beautifully phrased memorials – many of which related to those in the army.  Even though so many men died far away from home, their families and friends ensured that they were remembered by their community in Glasgow.

I was very moved by the monument to Lt Stirling, who died at the age of 23, leading an attack against the fort of Dundhootee in India.  As I was trying to find out where Dundhootee is, I came across the notice of Stirling’s death in the Asiatic Journal of 1828 (the year before the memorial was erected).  It details the events around his death and once again mentions what a fine chap he was.

So In Summary

The cathedral is one of those fantastic buildings that are unpredictable, intriguing and beautiful, with fascinating corners and unexpected treats.  If you have the time, and are interested, reading the memorials alone can take up much of your visit.  For me, it was the perfect way to start our Glasgow trip.

Further Information

As a place of worship, the cathedral has regular services and events.  The website gives information about these:  www.glasgowcathedral.org.uk

How to Get There

Local transport information is available here:  www.spt.co.uk while information on how to get to Glasgow via train is available via: www.thetrainline.com 

 

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