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Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys

The following is from Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys by Rev. D. Butler, M.A.:

Chapter III - Cathedrals

Diocese of Glasgow

Towards the end of the fourth century, St. Ninian, a Christian missionary trained at Rome in the doctrine and discipline of the Western Church, is said to have established a religious cell on the banks of the Molendinar. How long he remained there is uncertain, but his labours are chiefly centred around the Candida Casa at Whithorn and among the southern Picts, whose district, according to Bede, he evangelised. With St. Ninian's departure, the district around the Molendinar relapsed into barbarism, and the only remaining monument of his work was a cemetery which he was reputed to have consecrated. The next historical reference to Glasgow is in connection with St. Kentigern, or, as he was popularly known, St. Mungo, about the middle of the sixth century. He was of royal descent, and was born in 518 or 527. His biographer, Joceline, states that he was adopted and educated by St. Servanus or St. Serf, who lived at Culross, and by him was named "Munghu," i.e. dearest friend. But this must be a mistake, for Servanus lived two centuries after Kentigern's time;[47] if it is correct, there must have been an earlier and a later St. Serf. On attaining his twenty-fifth year, according to Joceline, he proceeded to Carnock, where lived a holy man named Fergus. After he reached the abode of Fergus, the good man said his "nunc dimittis" and died; and Kentigern, placing his body on a wain drawn by two bulls, took his departure, praying to be guided to the place which might be appointed for burial. The place where the wain stopped was Cathures, afterwards called Glasgow, where St. Ninian had consecrated a cemetery, and here Fergus was buried. Such is Joceline's account of Kentigern's first connection with Glasgow. The king and people of the district pressed him to remain as their bishop, and he consented, establishing his see at Cathures and founding a lay society of the servants of God, and fixing his own abode on the banks of the Molendinar. After some years of austerity and beneficence there, he was driven from his work by the persecutions of an apostate prince and settled in the vale of Clwyd, North Wales, where he founded a monastery. After a time he returned to Glasgow, at the solicitation of the King of Cumbria, and appointed St. Asaph as his successor in Wales. In a martyrology ascribed to the year 875 Kentigern appears as "bishop of Glasgow and confessor."[48] While resident at Glasgow, St. Kentigern was visited by St. Columba, his distinguished contemporary and the apostle of the Picts, who presented him with a crozier, which, Fordun says, was afterwards preserved in St. Wilfrid's Church at Ripon. Bishop Forbes describes the meeting of the two great men "as one of those incidents which we wish to be true, and which we have no certainty for believing not to be so."[49] St. Kentigern died in 603 or 614, and was buried in Glasgow, which is still known as the city of St. Mungo--Mungo being his name of honour or affection. Everything connected with St. Mungo's early church, of wood and wattles or of stone, on the banks of the Molendinar, is shrouded in the mists of antiquity until the first quarter of the twelfth century, when David, Prince and Earl of Cumbria, the youngest son of Queen Margaret, took measures to reconstruct the see and recover its property. Of Glasgow during the Culdee period nothing can be definitely known. The result of Prince David's inquest is contained in the Register of the Bishopric,[50] and it sets forth that Prince David, from love to God and by the exhortation of the Bishop, having caused inquiry to be made concerning the lands belonging to the church in Cumbria, had ascertained that they belonged to the church of Glasgow, and restored them. These lands extended from the Clyde on the north to the Solway and English March on the south, from the western boundary of Lothian on the east to the river Urr on the west, including Teviotdale, and comprehended what afterwards formed the site of the city of Glasgow.[51] The building of the cathedral would appear to have been begun before David succeeded to the throne in 1124, and he appointed his tutor John (called Achaius) to the bishopric. In 1136 the church, which was probably chiefly of wood, was dedicated, and King David endowed it further with lands, tithes, and churches. The church of Achaius was destroyed by fire, but through the exertions of Bishop Joceline a society was founded to collect funds for its restoration, and the work was sufficiently advanced for its consecration on 6th July 1197.[52] Although built at different dates, the building has a very homogeneous appearance, and might be mistaken for a building of one period. Under competent guidance,[53] we now propose to give a short sketch of the cathedral itself.

The first attempt to erect a cathedral was made by Bishop Achaius, whose episcopate extended from 1115 to 1147, and Mr. Honeyman regards the portion of the lower church at the south-west angle as the most ancient part of the structure. He holds that the church built by Achaius was restored by Bishop Joceline (1175-1199) at the end of the twelfth century, and that the above portion formed a chapel, and was part of that restoration. The strongest argument is its nearness to the tomb of the patron saint. If we assume that the old choir terminated in a semicircular apse, projecting eastward beyond the aisles, we shall find that the tomb would be enclosed in such a position as to admit of the high altar being placed immediately over it. Assuming that the choir was not apsidal but square, we get the same result. The probability is that the end of the church erected or altered by Joceline was square, and that it projected two bays beyond the aisles, as at St. Andrews and other churches of the same period.[54] The crypt, or, strictly speaking, "lower church," was evidently suggested by the sloping eastward character of the site, which would have placed St. Mungo's tomb at a depth below the level on which a large church could possibly be built; while Achaius, from his long residence in Italy, would be led to imitate some notable Italian examples.[55] Some similarities between Glasgow and Jedburgh (which was in the diocese of Glasgow) have suggested that there was in the olden times such a servant of the church as a diocesean architect.[56] "One thing is abundantly clear," says Mr. Honeyman, "to any one who intelligently studies the building, namely, that the whole design was carefully thought out and settled before a stone was laid. It is a skilful and homogeneous design, which could only be produced by a man of exceptional ability and great experience. Nothing has been left to chance, or to the sweet will of the co-operating craftsman, but the one master-mind has dictated every moulding and every combination, and has left the impress of his genius upon it all. The mark of the master may be discerned by the practised eye in every feature of the magnificent edifice; the marks of the craftsmen may be seen on the work they were told to do, and did so well."[57] To Bishop Joceline is due the credit of having formed a society to collect funds for the restoration of Bishop John's church, which was burnt by fire,[58] and he appears to have rebuilt the choir, and also to have designed, if he did not also partly build, the nave.[59] This part of his work was sufficiently advanced for consecration on 6th July 1197.[60] The work was probably continued by his successors, but the next great benefactor of the cathedral was Bishop William de Bondington (1233-1258), who perfected Joceline's work, and built both choir and lower church or "crypt," as they now are.[61] According to Mr. Honeyman, the foundations of the nave were laid and part of the walls was carried up before the building of the choir was begun.[62] Most of the nave appears, from its architecture, to have been erected at the end of the thirteenth, or the beginning of the fourteenth century, and is pronounced to form "one of the finest examples of the late First Pointed or Early Decorated style in Scotland."[63] "The spacing (of the piers) is that of the twelfth century (considerably less than that of the choir), while the height and the treatment, in other respects, is that of the latter portion of the thirteenth."[64]

Bishop Wishart during the war of Independence supported the Scottish party; he obtained permission from Edward I to cut timber in Luss forest for erecting the spire of the cathedral, and it was one of the causes of accusation against him, which led to his imprisonment in England, that he had used the said timber not for building the spire but for making engines of war wherewith to attack Edward's army. In 1400 the wooden spire of the cathedral was destroyed by lightning, but a new tower of masonry was erected over the crossing by Bishop Lauder (1408-1425), who carried the work as high as the main parapet. "This bishop appears also to have begun the completion of the chapter-house, a detached structure lying to the north-east of the choir. The walls of this building were partly erected about the time of the construction of the choir, but were afterwards raised to two storeys in height, and vaulted by Bishop Cameron."[65] This latter prelate (1426-1446) was known as "the Magnificent," from the splendour of his retinue and court. He erected the stone spire above the tower of Bishop Lauder, and also completed the chapter-house wing containing the sacristy on the upper floor, and the chapter-house on the ground floor. His arms are still to be seen on the portions of the structure erected by him. The beautiful rood-screen was also probably constructed by him.[66] Bishop Cameron also increased the number of prebendaries from seven to thirty-two, and ordained that they should all have manses and reside near the cathedral. In his day the episcopal court was said to rival that of the King, and he built the great tower of the castle or episcopal palace, which was probably erected by Bishop Bondington and stood with the garden in the open space between the cathedral and the present Castle Street, nowcalled Infirmary Square. The Bishop's palace was a Scottish baronial structure, and had an elaborate turreted gateway or port at the south-east angle of the wall nearly opposite the gate that now leads to the cathedral yard.[67] Bishop William Turnbull, who succeeded Bishop Cameron, held office from 1448 to 1454. He did not add much to the cathedral, but his memory ought to be gratefully remembered, for in response to his representation and that of the King, Pope Nicholas V issued his bull, on 7th January 1450-1451, by which he erected the University, ordaining that it should flourish in all time to come, as well in theology and canon and civil law as in the arts and every lawful faculty, and that the doctors, masters, readers, and students might there enjoy all the liberties, honours, exemptions, and immunities granted by the Apostolic see to the doctors, masters, and students in the University of Bologna. He gave the power to confer degrees and make licentiates--an important recognition in those days, for it brought the influence of the Church on the side of schools of learning, and gave universal European validity to the degrees so conferred.[68] The Bishop of Glasgow was the patron and head of the University of Glasgow, which was thus founded forty years after that of St. Andrews, and forty years before that of Aberdeen. The next prelate, Bishop Andrew Muirhead (1455-1473) took an important part in the State affairs of the period, and as far as his work in the cathedral is concerned, built the hall of the choral vicars. It is situated between the two buttresses at the west end of the north aisle of the choir, and is a low building now roofedwith flags. It was called the "aula vicariorum chori," and was built as an accommodation for the vicars choral, whose duties were to serve and sing in the choir. They were formed into a college by Bishop Muirhead, were originally twelve in number, but were afterwards increased to eighteen, and were aided by boy choristers. Archbishop Eyre thinks that this building on the north side of the cathedral was the early song-school of the church, which passed into the hands of the college of vicars choral, and was a hall for their business meetings and musical practice, the second storey being probably their reading-room, or the sleeping-place of the sacristan, who was required to sleep in the church.[69]

Robert Blacader (1484-1508) was high in favour with King James IV., and was one of the embassy sent to England to arrange the marriage of the Scottish monarch with the daughter of Henry VII. James had previously sought consolation under the Bishop's care, enrolled himself as a prebendary in the cathedral, and in person attended as a member of the cathedral-chapter. The King was always favourable to Glasgow, and did not desire the see to be subordinate to that of St. Andrews. He urged upon the Pope that the pallium should be granted to the Bishop of Glasgow, whose cathedral, he urged, "surpasses the other cathedral churches of my realm by its structure, its learned men, its foundation, its ornaments, and other very noble prerogatives." A bull was granted in 1491-1492 by Pope Innocent VIII. in which he declared the see to be metropolitan, and appointed the bishops of Dunkeld, Dunblane, Galloway, and Argyll to be its suffragans.[70] Blacader was the first Archbishop of Glasgow, and beautified his cathedral by building or adorning the fine rood-screen which separates the nave from the choir[71] by founding altarages and erecting two altars in front of the rood-screen, on both of which his arms and initials are carved.[72] He built also the decorated flights of steps from the aisles of the nave to the choir, and partly erected the building in continuation of the south transept, called Blacader's aisle, but it was never carried higher than the ground storey or crypt.[73] It is also known as Fergus's aisle.[74] Archbishop Blacader was the last to add to the cathedral, and there is reason to believe that his addition occupies the site of the cemetery consecrated by St. Ninian, and thus the earliest consecration and the latest building effort are identified with the same spot.[75]

Glasgow, like Elgin, Aberdeen, and Brechin, possessed originally two western towers, but at Glasgow, grievously and unfortunately, the south-west tower was removed in 1845, and the north-west one in 1848 by the Restoration Committee. They were venerable in their antiquity, and were probably built after the completion of the nave and aisles, if not at the same time. Evidence showed "that probably the north-west tower was part of the original design, or if not, that its erection was resolved on before the north aisle was completed, and it was built before the west window of the north aisle required to be glazed. The south-west tower was probably of the same date."[76] The latter was best known as the consistory house, and was the place where the bishops held their ecclesiastical courts and the diocesan records were kept. The only comfort amid the demolition of the towers is that the proposed new ones were not erected in their place; and better counsel ought to have prevailed, since Mr. Billings described the removal as an act of barbarism. "All who now see the grand old building, shorn of its cathedral features, and made like a large parish church, mock and laugh at the action of the local committee, saying, ‘These men had two towers, and they went and pulled them both down.’"[77]

The higher church had twenty-four altars or chapels;[78] the lower church, commonly but incorrectly called the crypt, had six altars;[79] the high altar occupied the usual place, was dedicated to St. Kentigern, had a wooden canopy or tabernacle work over it, and in front of it, on the right-hand side, was the bishop's throne.[80] When it is recalled that the cathedral possessed these thirty altars or chapels (most of them beautiful works of art), thirty-two canons, college of choral vicars, with other assistants, one can well understand the great, almost dangerous power which the "Spiritual Dukedom" possessed, and the dread, felt even by its own chapter, when it was first proposed to make the bishopric into an archbishopric, for they regarded the movement as conferring too much power on the bishop.[81] A conception of the archbishop's power may be formed by recalling that the archdeaconry of Glasgow contained the following deaneries--Nycht, Nith, or Dumfries, with 31 parishes, besides 2 in Annandale and 8 in Galloway; Annandale, 28 parishes, besides 8 in Eskdale; Kyle, 17 parishes; Cunningham, 15; Carrick, 9; Lennox, 17; Rutherglen, 34; Lanark or Clydesdale, 25; Peebles or Stobo, 19; the archdeaconry of Teviotdale, 36 parishes.[82] Besides the prelates already mentioned there were, as the direct successors of Blacader, James Beaton (1508-1522), afterwards Archbishop of St. Andrews; Gavin Dunbar (1524-1547); James Beaton, the last Roman Catholic archbishop, who at the Reformation retired to France with the writs of the see, which were deposited, by his directions, partly in the archives of the Scots College, and partly in the Chartreuse of Paris, and have been since published by the Maitland Club.[83] Among the Protestant archbishops space will only permit us recording the names of John Spottiswood (1612-1615) and Robert Leighton (1671-1674).[84]

Glasgow has passed through the various stages of burgh, burgh of barony, burgh of regality, city, royal burgh, and county of a city.[85] But it grew under the protection of the Church, for as David I. granted to Bishop John of St. Andrews the site of the burgh of that name, so William the Lion granted to Bishop Joceline of Glasgow the right to have a burgh in Glasgow, with all the freedoms and customs which any royal burgh in Scotland possessed.[86] Glasgow thus owed its existence to the Church, under whose fostering care it developed for centuries, and the ruling ecclesiastic elected the provost, magistrates, and councillors. Its motto still is "Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word," and its seal emblems have been thus interpreted: "The employment of these four emblems (fish, bird, tree, bell) in connection with St. Kentigern was meant to convey that he was sent as a fisher of men, that his work from small beginnings grew to very large dimensions, 'like to a grain of mustard-seed, ... which is the least indeed of all seeds, but when it is grown up ... becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in the branches thereof'; and that his name and fame became so great that he was heard of everywhere. 'Verily their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world.'"[87]

The most beautiful features of the exterior are pronounced to be the doorways, especially those of the lower church,[88] the vaulting of which was said by Sir Gilbert Scott to contain nowhere two compartments in juxtaposition which are alike.[89] It has been suggested that the motive of the architect was to reproduce, as nearly as circumstances permitted, the plan of Solomon's Temple, and the arrangement corresponds exactly.[90] The beauty of the lower church is much obscured by the dark stained glass in the windows, and it is matter for regret that this masterpiece of design and wonderful variety of effect[91] are not more visible.

"The plan of the cathedral," says Mr. Honeyman, "is remarkably compact, and the exterior is symmetrical and harmonious. The best points of view are from the north-east and the south-east. From either of these points the full height of the structure is seen, and that is sufficiently great to give the building a dignified and impressive effect, the height from the ground-level to the apex of the choir gable being 115 feet. The well-proportioned short transept breaks the monotony of the long clerestory, without unduly hiding it, as transepts with more projections do. The gable of the choir, with its four lancets, rises picturesquely over the double eastern aisles, while the sombre keep-like mass of the chapter-house adds a romantic element to the effect of the whole composition, which culminates gracefully in the lofty spire. The pervading characteristic is simplicity, and the effect solemnising. Sir Walter Scott, with his usual quick perception of character in buildings, as well as in man, puts an admirable reference to these salient points into the mouth of Andrew Fairservice, who exclaims, 'Ah! it's a brave kirk; nane o' yer whigmaleeries an' curliwurlies, an' open-steek hems about it.' It may, indeed, be called severe, but not tame."[92] Internally the cathedral has a nave of eight bays, with side aisles; transepts, not projecting beyond the aisles; a choir of five bays, with side aisles and an aisle at the east end, with chapels beyond it. At the north-east corner of the choir is the sacristy or vestiarium; below it is the chapter-house, with an entrance from the lower church; on the south side of the church, as a continuation of the transept, is another low church or crypt, called "Blacader's Aisle"; on the north side are the foundations of a large chapel. Over the crossing rise the tower and spire, 217 feet high. The church within is 283 feet long by 61 feet broad.[93]

The history of the cathedral is closely connected with many of the stirring events in Scottish history. King Edward prostrated himself before its altar; Robert the Bruce within it received absolution, "while the Red Cumyn's blood was scarce yet dry upon his dagger"; and within its walls was held the Glasgow Assembly of 1638, when the Episcopate was abolished, and the Presbyterian government was restored. Robert Leighton has preached within its choir, in his low, sweet voice, and with those angelic strains of eloquence and devotion which lingered in the memory of his hearers to their dying day.

[47] Celtic Scotland, vol. ii. pp. 184, 185.
[48] Celtic Scotland, ii. p. 186.
[49] Historians of Scotland, v. p. lxxxix.
[50] Vol. i. pp. 3-5.
[51] Sir James Marwick's Charters and Documents relating to the City of Glasgow, part i. p. dxxiii.
[52] Preface to Register, p. xxiv.
[53] Messrs. MacGibbon and Ross and Honeyman, architects.
[54] The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 229.
[55] Ibid.
[56] The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 231.
[57] Ibid. p. 274.
[58] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, ii. p. 160.
[59] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 232.
[60] Registrum Epis. Glas. p. xxiv.
[61] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, ii. p. 161.
[62] Ibid.
[63] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, ii. p. 161.
[64] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 267.
[65] Eccles. Arch. of Scotland, ii. p. 161.
[66] Ibid. pp. 161, 162.
[67] The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 324.
[68] See Professor Laurie's Lectures, pp. 136, 137.
[69] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 292-302.
[70] Theiner, p. 505; Reg. Epis. Glasg. ii. 470-473, 543, 544.
[71] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 265.
[72] MacGibbon and Ross, vol. ii. p. 162.
[73] Ibid.
[74] See p. 23.
[75] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 108.
[76] Ibid. p. 277.
[77] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 291.
[78] Ibid. p. 305.
[79] Ibid. p. 317.
[80] Ibid. p. 304.
[81] Sir James Marwick's Charters and Documents of Glasgow, part i. p. xli.
[82] Dr. Rankin, vol. ii. p. 315.
[83] Registrum Episcopatus Glasguensis.
[84] Complete list in Book of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 190-197.
[85] Sir James Marwick's Charters, part. i. p. dxxiv.
[86] Ibid. p. v.
[87] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 375, 376.
[88] Ibid. p. 244.
[89] Mediæval Architecture, vol. ii. p. 200.
[90] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 252.
[91] MacGibbon and Ross, vol. ii. p. 172.
[92] Book of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 239, 240.
[93] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 165.

Diocese of Dunkeld


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