Sunday, August 23, 2009

Glasgow Cathedral: Saints and a Kilt

Glasgow Cathedral and Stirling Castle were on my must-see list in addition to walking the Way. Kathleen and I went a few days early to get our history fix in before Sally and Jan came to start the walk, Kathleen to Edinburgh and I to Glasgow.

I was re-reading Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth as a prelude to the recent sequel, World without End, both books set in the time period of the 12th-14th centuries when the Glasgow Cathedral was being built. Historical fiction is more painless and enjoyable than having to research how these guys managed to build these massive structures almost a thousand years ago.

Patty and I had seen the ruins of the Abbey at Holyrood in Edinburgh last year. Built earlier in the 12th century than the Glasgow Cathedral, the Abbey's rounded, thinking about being pointed arches, seem to me to be an example of Romanesque transitioning to pointed Gothic arches.

Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh

The Abbey did have some pointiness going on, but Glasgow Cathedral was full of pointed arches, ten story high vaulted ceilings, and high celestery windows letting in the light.

Glasgow Cathedral

The statue in front is David Livingston, MD, famous medical missionary and explorer, of "Dr. Livingston, I presume" fame, and the Miami Beach style street lamps are from Glasgow's coat of arms based on St. Mungo's miracles.

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

St. Mungo, AKA St. Kentigern, built a chapel on the cathedral site in the 6th century. The story goes St. Mungo carried the body of a holy man, Fergus, in a cart drawn by two wild bulls, giving direction to the bulls to take it to the place ordained by God. The bulls pulled the cart to this area of Strathclyde where another saint, Ninian, had blessed the site a century earlier and, voila!, from St. Mungo's little religious settlement grew a marvelous city.

On entering the cathedral nave, the height of the ceiling made possible by the pointed arched vaults was breathtaking.

Everywhere in the church were reminders and memorials to Scotland's fallen soldiers and, as on our last trip, I saw Scotland as a nation grieving.

Beautiful stained glass windows...

The Creation window

The Millenium window

While I was taking in the Nave, an eightyish gentleman sitting next to one of the great pillars started a conversation about the marks on the pillars.

"It happened during the Reformation", he said. "The people wanted to save the cathedral so they stripped it of all its (Catholic) decorations". Later I read there were altars at each of the fourteen pillars of the Nave in pre-Reformation times; perhaps these were what had been ripped away. In any event, the cathedral survived the destruction of the Reformation.

Then he directed me down to the crypt beneath the church where St. Mungo's body lies.

St. Mungo was buried in his 6th century churchyard and later moved to the crypt built under the cathedral to house his body. Huge pillars in the underground church support the weight of the church above.

While I was checking out the subchurch, another volunteer approached and gave me an hour of his time, telling me all the things I had missed, like the bullet holes in the only original door left in the church, a remnant of not so peaceful times. He knew all those fascinating things that aren't in the tour book, all the more fascinating because he was wearing a kilt. He said he had walked the Way, "don't need to do it again". He filled me in about Rannock Moor, "it's floating and it has the only Ice Age forest left in Europe", he said. I didn't want to ask why he didn't need to do it again, but I put Rannock Moor on my list. I got his name, Mr. Montgomery, should have asked for his phone number. What is it about a man in a kilt?

Next post, Stirling Castle, Braveheart, and Robert the Bruce.


Pat said...

See why I always found architecture so fascinating? Among other things, it's a concrete (no pun intended) manifestation of human history.

Love the pics - but where's a pic of the man in his kilt? Kilts are so cool...

Katharine said...

How about an architectural tour of all the Romanesque and Gothic age buildings in Europe?

Katharine said...

Well, I forgot to add we would have to walk from one to another.

Pat said...

I much prefer Gothic, but...ok! Can we start after I go to court for my speeding ticket on October 7?

Kappa no He said...

Amazing. And isn't is incredible what you can learn from the person standing right beside you? Stripped pillars, bullet holes!

Trip to Bhutan said...

Scotland cathedrals and buildings are an architectural delight.
Scotland along with Bhutan and Australia also have some of the most serene scenery.