Glasgow is a city practically built on organised religion, which makes a visit to its famous and historic cathedral only polite if you’re in town.
Built on the spot where the first bishop of the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde St Kentigern – or St Mungo as the patron saint of Glasgow is better known – was thought to have been buried in AD 612, the dramatic construction of spires and blackened stone that stands just back off the city’s High Street today was erected between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries (its first stone was dedicated in the presence of King David I in 1136). Uniquely for a Scottish mainland medieval cathedral, it survived the 1560 Reformation – when Scotland formally broke with the Papacy, and destroyed many ornate symbols of worship in the process – virtually complete. The cathedral is looked after today by Historic Scotland, and maintains a regular and active congregation, continuing an unbroken 800-year tradition of worship beneath its roof.
Key features to look out for in Glasgow Cathedral include the mid-thirteenth century crypt constructed to house the tomb of St Kentigern, the early-fifteenth century ‘pulpitum’ – a richly carved stone screen which separates the choir from the nave – and the beautiful carved stone ceiling in the Blackadder Aisle, which was built around 1500 by Archbishop Blackadder. Glasgow Cathedral also possesses one of the most impressive post-war collections of stained glass windows in Britain, including John K Clark’s Millennium window, which was dedicated on St Kentigern’s day, January 13, in 2000.
Nearby the cathedral, you’ll find two other significant sites pertaining to Glasgow’s spiritual past and present – the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, and the Glasgow Necropolis. Take a tour of all three locations in one day to survey just how much faith has shaped and continues to shape this city.