History

THE EARLY DAYS

St. Ninian came from Whithorn in Galloway in the 5th century and dedicated a Christian burial ground at Cathures (later Glasgow) in the Kingdom of Strathclyde.

To this spot in the following century came Kentigern, popularly called Mungo. He was born tradition says on the shore in Fife near Culross where the ruins of St. Mungo’s chapel are supposed to mark the spot. At Culross he was brought up by St. Serf and trained for the priesthood.

Mungo left St. Serf and came to Carnock in Stirlingshire from where he accompanied the corpse of a holy man, Fergus, which was carried on a cart by two untamed oxen. They stopped at St. Ninian’s burial ground in Cathures where Fergus was buried. The Blacader Aisle may mark the site.

Kentigern was chosen by the King, clergy and people to be their bishop, and he founded a monastic community and built a church where, reputedly, St. Columba came to visit him. From here Kentigern travelled to Cumbria, to the Lake District, and as far as St. Asaph in North Wales.

The date of his death is given as 13th January, 603. His tomb is in the Lower Church of the Cathedral where there is a service held every year to commemorate his life.

PRE-REFORMATION

There is little known about the church buildings which stood on the site of the present Cathedral until the early part of the 12th century.

The first stone building was consecrated in about 1136 in the presence of King David I and his Court when John (1117-1147) was Bishop.

Destroyed or severely damaged by fire, this cathedral was succeeded by a larger one consecrated in 1197, during the time of Bishop Jocelyn (1177-1199) to whom we owe the institution of the Glasgow Fair in July, which is still observed as an annual holiday.

In the early 14th century,  the Nave was extended and completed. The south-west door and the entrance to the Blacader Aisle and the walls of the nave up to the level of the sills of the windows belong to this period.

The next major rebuilding came later in the 13th century with William de Bondinton (1233-1258) who was responsible for adding the Quire and the Lower Church. The doorways of the sacristy (Upper Chapter House) and of the Lower Chapter House date from the mid-13th century, and the whole church may have been completed before the end of the 13th century.

Most of the Nave above sill level probably dates from after 1330, and the West Window from the later 14th century.

The Pulpitum and the Blacader Aisle were added in the fifteenth century.

POST REFORMATION

After the Reformation a wall was put across the nave to allow the western portion of the nave to be used for worship by a congregation which became know as the Outer High. This congregation worshiped in the nave from 1647 until 1835.

The Lower Church was used by another congregation, the Barony, from 1596-1801, until a new church was built just across from the Cathedral.

When the Lower Church was no longer used for worship, soil was brought in to a depth of about five feet and it became the burial place for members of the Barony Congregation. The visible parts of the pillars were coloured black with white “tears”, the graves were enclosed by railings four feet high, with two narrow passages for access. The Lower Church was cleared before the middle of the 19th century.

The congregation which used the Quire was for a time called the Inner High. The pulpit was placed between pillars of the south aisle and the King’s Seat was on the north aisle. In 1805 a major reconstruction saw the pulpit removed to the east end. Galleries were inserted between the pillars on three sides, and the King’s Seat was removed to the western gallery in front of the Pulpitum or Choir Screen.

This brief history has been taken from “A Walk through Glasgow Cathedral” written by the previous Minister of the Cathedral, The Very Revd. Dr. W. J. Morris.