Guide to Visiting St. Mungo's Cathedral, Glasgow

This picture right here is why I love guides. Even if you have to wait or pay money, there is nothing like learning from someone who lives within the walls of a place. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one like Tom, who can history come alive right in front of your eyes.


The Cathedral of St. Mungo was one of the sites I was the most excited to see when we planned our trip to visit Glasgow. Walking up to the church I was blown away by the size. It loomed before me; it’s thick black bricks etched onto the skyline. The Glasgow Cathedral is the best example of medieval architecture in Scotland to have survived mostly intact. The soaring ceilings of the church are one of the best examples of Gothic features. Buildings which heights challenged physics were a fundamental part of goth architecture featured here. Reaching to the heaven. Other features prevalent inside are their pointed arches and vaulted ceilings. In the medieval period, beauty and aesthetics began to be incorporated into the design.


The spot where this church now sits had been a spiritual place for hundreds of year. At this very spot in the 12th century, it is said that Saint Mungo started his church. The life of Saint Mungo is a fascinating one. His mother was a princess. Princess Teneu, the daughter of King Lleuddun, who ruled North Scotland. When she became pregnant as a result of a rape her father was furious at her and threw her from the hills of Traprain Law. But by some miracle, she survived. Trying to escape her family she travelled along the River Forth towards Fife, and there she gave birth to Mungo. There he was raised by the church and performed four miracles in Glasgow. There is a famous verse child use to remember his wonders.

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam

The symbol for the church is made up of these elements. You can see the large fish in the centre with branches sprouting from its head. Atop its head, you can see the small bird perched on the top of the tree. And hanging from one of the lowest branches is the bell.


When we walk in the giant wooden doors of the nave of the church, one of the first things that will catch your eyes is how open and tall the first room is. The roof is made of timber and maintains its 14th-century medieval design. Other there has been extensive restoration on the ceiling, a lot of the 14th-century timber remained. On each of the join along the vaulted roof, you can see the shields of various houses that were the powerhouses of Scotland throughout years. It’s like a patterned quilt of history looming above your head. This was meant to instil in the people attending church on a weekly basis the fact that these families were quite literally, on top.


The reason this cathedral still has original Gothic architecture is that it survived the fabled Reformation. Its tower is the sole remaining intact tower in any church in Scotland. Pointed arches, thin tracery windows and vaulted aisles decoration this architectural confection. 

After standing in the front of the nave for a few minutes staring up at the ceiling, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the incredibly brilliant stained glass window on the west wall. This cathedral has some of the most fantastic examples of modern stained glass in Europe. The original glass that was installed began to deteriorate quite quickly and needed to be replaced. Instead of the costly expense of restoring all the broken glass, the church enlisted some prominent artists to be great new. The West Window is called “The Creation” and made by Fraser Speared in 1958. 


Another element of this church that separates it from others is it’s Quire Screen. This magnificent masterpiece of wood carving separated the Quire from the Nave. During the reformations, these screens were thorns from almost every church in the Uk and finding on still indicate a rare thing. This delicate panel is decorated with seven pairs of figured, each one depicting scenes of the seven deadly sins. This was for the general public to see as they entered the church. Many people couldn’t read but with these artistic representations, anyone could receive the message that the preachers were teaching. The stained glass windows that surround the Quire are just as powerful. They depicture the Apostles stories. 


Past the Quire, you enter the Nave of the church. This was where the nobility of Glaswegian population was to sit throughout their service. Each of the pews is carefully carved with signs to signify those who were allowed to sit in those seats.


On the right side of the seats lies one of the most striking and impressive stained glass windows in the church. It is the Trades House Window. This window features the foremen who helped save the Cathedral from destruction. Without these men and women, the cathedral would have fallen to the Reformation and the place we were standing would look much, much different.


The Millennium Window on the North wall of the nave was made in 1999. There is a lot of controversy over this piece. It is incredibly modern but in my opinion also incorporate a lot of traditional stained glass markers. John Clark was the artist who created the pieces. He was a student at the Glasgow School of Art and then became a lecturer. The theme of the window was GROWTH and was funded by the three Glasgow schools.

The Millennium Window

In the basement of the church stands one of the most valuable relics of history. In the lower crypt rests the tomb of Saint Mungo. The saint's relics were removed, but the tomb is still a beautiful centrepiece surround by a forest of pillars. Only the echo of footsteps can be heard down here. A peace was resting place for Mungo.


After being shown other little secrets hidden inside the walls of this place by our lovely guide, we headed outside. The bright sun almost blinded me as you stepped out of the dimness of inside. I didn’t really want to leave but the day was getting away with us, and there was still so much more to see.

Guide to St. Mungo's Cathedral Glasgow