Sunday, May 17, 2015

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral was at the very heart of the early development of Glasgow as a city. Dedicated to St Kentigern, the first bishop of Strathclyde, the awe-inspiring edifice attracted countless pilgrims to his shrine. Originally built in the 1100s, and substantially enlarged in the 1200s, it survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 almost intact and stands today as the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland. Currently it is under the Church of Scotland.

At the crypt of the church one can find the chapel and tomb of St Kentigern, also known as St Mungo, the ‘dear beloved;’ he was a much revered bishop of Glasgow who died in about 612. Tradition says that he was buried at the spot where the Glasgow Cathedral was built.  St Mungo was a missionary in Strathclyde and may have built his church on this site. His sanctity was promoted by later bishops and he became a cult figure in the Scottish church. The tomb, located in the crypt, attracted many pilgrims, who followed a stage-managed route to get there. They prayed for salvation, confessed crimes and sought cures. Their offerings helped to swell church funds and the cathedral developed around the tomb.

Stories about St Mungo are largely the creation of enthusiastic biographers in the 1100s. Important saints were promoted by the church to bolster the faith of believers. Mungo’s legendary deeds were exploited during the early days of Alba, the unified Scottish kingdom in the late 9th century. This was repeated, 500 years later, to reinforce the identity of the Scottish church after the Wars of Independence. 

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