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The Glasgow Cathedral

The modern and vibrant city of Glasgow features a splendid monument dating back to the Middle Ages: the 12th-century Glasgow Cathedral, also known as High Kirk of Glasgow, St Kentigern's or St Mungo's Cathedral. The dark spire and green roofs proudly tower over the city’s contemporary buildings. The tomb of the eponymous Scottish saint and the beautiful Victorian cemetery draw many visitors.

Sober and elegant, the Glasgow Cathedral is a must-see attraction. This Gothic structure boasts some interesting architecture, but what makes the cathedral truly special is that it is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the 1560 Protestant Reformation. The largest part of the current building dates back to the 15th century, but some parts were constructed even earlier in the 12th century. The square in front of the Cathedral houses the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which hosts exhibitions on international art from every religion around the world.

Glasgow Cathedral or St Mungo's Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral or St Mungo's Cathedral

Glasgow

The 14th-century wooden ceiling

Impressive and mysterious

Despite its tall windows, the interior of the Glasgow Cathedral is quite dark, lending the church a romantic air of mystery. The stately Gothic arches draw your eye to the magnificent 32-metre-high wooden ceiling which has been restored on numerous occasions, with some of the panels dating back to the 14th century. Another impressive feature is the massive stone choir, depicting illustrations of the 7 sins. All stained glass windows were made after 1947 and are no less impressive. The door to the sacristy is right behind the choir, in the left corner of the church. This historic location is where the University of Glasgow was founded in 1451.

The tomb of Saint Mungo

The most intriguing part of the Cathedral is located underground in the beautiful old crypt. Beneath the arches lies the tomb of Saint Kentigern, best known by his nickname Saint Mungo. This saint converted part of Scotland to Christianity in the 6th century. He is also the patron saint of Glasgow and that is why the symbols of Saint Mungo – a bird, a tree, a bell and a fish with a ring – are found in the city's coat of arms. The fish with the ring refers to a legend in which the saint found the queen’s ring inside the belly of a fish, protecting her from the wrath of her suspicious husband.

The symbols of Saint Mungo
The 19th-century cemetery

The Necropolis

On a hill next to the cathedral we find one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe. Most of the tombs date back to Victorian times, when Glasgow still boasted a booming industry and was known as the 'second city' of the British Empire. In those days, the city’s rich industrialists commissioned extravagant tomb monuments designed by Scotland’s best known architects who hired the best sculptors and craftsmen to carry out the work. You will also find many Celtic crosses in the cemetery. With its beautiful flowers and lush vegetation, the Necropolis is anything but sad or melancholy. Set on higher ground, the cemetery also offers a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding hills.

Photo credits

  • The 14th-century wooden ceiling: Radek Sturgolewski, Shutterstock
  • The symbols of Saint Mungo: Fr Lawrence Lew OP, Flickr