Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral is built on the site of the 6th-century cell of St. Kentigern (Mungo), located at the north end of the High Street to the east of Glasgow city centre. The first stone-built building on this site was dedicated in the presence of King David I in 1136, although the present building dates from 1197. Originally the seat of the Bishop and then the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Cathedral passed from the Roman Catholic church to the Church of Scotland following the Reformation of 1560, and it is this religious community which it continues to serve. The Reformation saw the building split into three parish churches; the choir housed the Inner High Kirk, the west end of the nave the Outer High Kirk and the crypt the Barony Kirk. This situation persisted until 1835 when the parts of the Cathedral were again united, with a single congregation. Thus, this is the only Mediaeval cathedral building on the Scottish mainland to have survived from before the Reformation, still roofed and virtually intact. It is now A-listed.

Building work in the 12th century by Bishop Jocelyn, was completed in the 13th century and major renovation work was undertaken in the 15th century, which included the construction of the central tower and the chapter house. Again repairs were needed in the 18th century, though unfortunately the western towers were removed before it was realised that there was no money to rebuild them. In the 20th century the area surrounding the Cathedral has been improved, with the construction of a visitor centre, the creation of the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art and a piazza to the west.

Inside, the mid-13th century crypt houses the tomb of St. Kentigern and an effigy of Bishop Robert Wishart (c.1240 - 1316), who encouraged both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to fight against King Edward I of England to regain Scottish independence. The 'pulpitum' is a richly carved stone screen inserted in the early 1400s to separate the choir from the nave, which features altar platforms dating from 1503. The Blackadder Aisle (c.1500) features a ceiling with fine carved stone bosses.

The original Barony Church established in the crypt in 1595 features in Sir Walter Scott's historical novel Rob Roy, where it provided the setting for the first encounter between Englishman Frank Osbaldistone and the protagonist Rob Roy MacGregor. More recently the crypt was a filming location for Series Two of the Sony Pictures time-travel television fantasy Outlander (2016).

The Cathedral has one of the finest Post-World War II collections of stained glass to be found in Britain, including the Millennium Window by John K. Clark (b.1957), which was unveiled in 1999 by HRH The Princess Royal. The magnificent four-manual organ dates from 1879, the work of Henry Willis & Sons of London. It was rebuilt and enlarged on several occasions, most recently it was redesigned and modernised by Harrison and Harrison in 1996.

The building is Crown property and is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, which controversially announced they would impose an entry fee for tourists from 2015. Glasgow Cathedral remains a centre of civic pride for the city, serving as a focus for many important regional and national events.

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