Glasgow Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Amy Irvine

04 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral (also known as St Mungo’s Cathedral) is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland, and also the oldest building in Glasgow. It is one of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings, and the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact and not ‘un-roofed’. Subsequently, Glasgow Cathedral was used to house several parish kirks.

History of Glasgow Cathedral

The cathedral is said to be built on the site where Glasgow’s patron saint and founder, Saint Kentigern (known as St Mungo – the first bishop in the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde), built his church and was buried there in 612 AD. The lower crypt to house St Mungo’s tomb was built in the mid-1200s, and his shrine at the cathedral was a great centre of Christian pilgrimage until the Scottish Reformation.

The cathedral as it is today was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, and its Scottish Gothic architecture is widely regarded as a high point of cathedral-building in Europe.

The high altar was the site where James IV ratified the treaty of Perpetual Peace on 1502 between Scotland and England. 20 years after the Reformation, James VI granted the income from several lands to Glasgow for the cathedral’s upkeep in 1581 (making it Crown property), and in 1583, Glasgow’s town council took on responsibility for repairs.

The University of Glasgow originated in classes held within the precinct of the cathedral, around 1451. In 1460, the university moved out of the cathedral to an adjacent site on the east side of the High Street, and moved to its current location on Gilmorehill in 1870.

Glasgow Cathedral today

Whilst the work of previous architects and builders who made various changes to the internal layout of the cathedral over the centuries can still be studied and admired (such as the cathedral’s 68.6 metre spire), newer features are also on display. One example is the post-war collections of stained glass windows (including John K Clark’s Millennium window), thought to be one of the finest collections in Britain.

The cathedral is cared for by Historic Environment Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, and its congregation is part of the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Glasgow, though its services and associations are open to all.

Getting to Glasgow Cathedral

The cathedral is just 10 minutes walk from Glasgow city centre, next to the Royal Infirmary and in close proximity to the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art and the Glasgow Necropolis. There are a number of buses which leave from the city centre that pass near to the cathedral, and the nearest train station is Glasgow High Street. If driving, exit the M8 at junction 15 and follow the signs for Glasgow Cathedral.

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