Glasgow Cathedral is said to be the location where Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, built his church. Saint Mungo’s remains are found in the lower crypt of the Cathedral and is one of the main reasons why tourists visit the place. Today, this landmark is one of the structures tightly associated with Glasgow. It is a perfect example of Scottish Gothic architecture and serves as a good representation of the architectural heritage of Glasgow.

“Survivor” Church

The Cathedral was constructed before the Reformation and became the seat of the Archbishop of Glasgow. It’s interesting to note that Glasgow Cathedral is one of the few Scottish medieval churches that have not succumbed to the destruction brought about by the Reformation. It has not been unroofed and is notably the only medieval cathedral found along the Scottish mainland. The Cathedral was witness to the battles of Glasgow in 1544 and 1560.

This Scottish church actually wouldn’t have remained intact had there been no intervention from the local government. Around two decades after the last battle in Glasgow, the town council agreed to undertake repairs on the cathedral. The repairs were mostly funded by the money left by Archbishop Gavin Dunbar. It’s worth mentioning too that the rood screen in the cathedral has also managed to survive as it is rather rare for it to remain intact in Scottish churches.

Cathedral or Not?

Glasgow Cathedral, technically, is no longer a cathedral since it has already ceased becoming the seat of a bishop since 1690. Still, this church remains to be an active place for Christian worship just like many other pre-Reformation cathedrals in Scotland. It has even hosted the Church of Scotland congregation. The cathedral part of its name remains acceptable under a looser definition of the term, being a large and important church. Glasgow Cathedral, for some, may no longer be prominently associated with worship activities. Instead, it is more widely known as a tourist destination.

At present, Glasgow Cathedral is led by Rev Laurence A.B. Whitley, who has assumed the position since February 2007. He took over the position left by Rev William Morris, who retired in November 2005. The building of the Cathedral is owned by the Crown but is maintained by Historic Scotland.

The church maintains a website that looks not that outdated but also not that attention-grabbing. For a place regarded as a tourist destination, its website has not been transformed into something flashy and attractive. The important details are there but for the most part, the website has remained typical of how a church website would look like. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it. Just don’t mind it looking so typical or comparable to this site for those who want to buy hcg injections online. Well, the site is not ad-filled but it appears generic for church websites, just like how the generic pages of hcg pills or  hcg pellets are designed.

Did you know that the Glasgow Cathedral used to lie on a popular delivery route in the 1920’s? In fact, most workers knew that if they stopped in for a visit to the Glasgow Cathedral that they could be entitled to a boiling cup of soup and on lucky days a cup of coffee.  Drivers from all around knew that if they passed through Glasgow, they could stop at the Cathedral for a nice break from the long and winding road.

Eventually, one of the local newspaper delivery boys from Glasgow that got around on his bicycle decided that he too should be able to stop in for some food.  Although his deliveries were in no way the sizable journeys that the drivers made, he felt that as long as he was delivering papers in the Glasgow area that he could receive his free cup of soup.

At first, he was laughed at by the other men, who had felt they earned their soup by driving miles and miles to reach Glasgow.  This little boy, whom no one is sure the name of, stood his ground and eventually was given his soup.  One of the Cathedral’s nuns, Sister Jane, took pity on the boy and told the other men to hush because as long as he was an employed delivery boy, he was allowed to partake in the festivities with the other delivery drivers.

When Sister Jane took this boy under her wing, he never forgot it.  For the eight months he was a delivery boy, she served his soup, spoke to him and gave him tons of wisdom.  When the boy had to give up his job, he wanted to give Sister Jane a gift fit to thank her for her kindness.  All he could afford to give her were the head lights from his bicycle (this was back in the days before kids worried about wearing stylish helmets).  And that is exactly what he did.

Apparently this boy told his replacement about Glasgow Cathedral’s soup and Sister Jane’s kindness.  This next boy continued to stop in for soup, just as his counterpart did and eventually he also wound up leaving Sister Jane his bicycle head lights when he moved on from delivering newspapers.

Twelve years later, the Cathedral could no longer afford to feed the deliverymen their soup and coffee.  Word spread that having the Glasgow Cathedral on route was no longer a special treat.  Regardless, Sister Jane had a mighty collection as the twenty four newspaper delivery boys who held the position during those twelve years had left Sister Jane their own bicycle lights.  It was a special tradition that the boys had continued.

Sister Jane passed away after forty seven years of loyal service to the Glasgow Cathedral.  To commemorate her wonderful soul, the Glasgow Cathedral has dedicated one of the Cathedral’s wings to her.  In that wing, visitors can view all twenty four headlights the Sister was left from all the delivery boys.  It is a very special exhibit that any visitor coming through the Cathedral would be delighted to see.  See Sister Jane’s bicycle head lights and relive the heartwarming story at Glasgow Cathedral today.

Unfortunately Glasgow and, in fact, Scotland in general have a bad reputation for violence with knives, fists and other simple weapons like two by fours: as a matter of fact anything on hand that will magnify the force of an attacker’s blow. Even more unfortunate is that this reputation is well-deserved. There have been and are presently initiatives to reduce this saddening trend but there is yet more work to be done – violent habits run deep and are well-entrenched in certain Scottish demographics.

So what about Glaswegian churches, and specifically Glasgow Cathedral? Fortunately violence has little penetrated the sacred confines of our religious institutions – and especially the sgian-dubh is still decidely not a cause for concern as yet. A kilt without sgian-dubh is just not complete, so this is a relief! I’m not sure you would be as welcome if you were wearing an enormous hunting knife on your belt, but it seems like your best pocket knife or something similarly innocuous would be okay as well. I emailed the cathedral just in case, and received a quick reply from the Session Clerk letting me know that so far a fuss hasn’t been made about kilted gentlemen wearing a knives in their socks as is traditional. The clerk on duty also mentioned that when he suspects that he might have trouble wearing a knife he substitutes with a sort of fake knife; for all appearances it is a sheathed knife but there’s nothing metal about it (that is, it is bladeless). That way you can even get on an aeroplane fully kilted.

If you are one of those who insists on wearing a kilt as much as possible – and there are those who will even wear one while paddleboarding, for instance (hopefully after you’ve learned and got some balance) – a fake sgian-dubh will open doors that might otherwise be closed. But then there are those who will insist on authentic all the way; they might run into problems now and then. With the way the world is going, security is getting tighter and tighter and even traditional knives, including ceremonial ones like the Sikh kirtan and the Scottish sgian-dubh, are encountering resistance. After all there are those who will take advantage and ruin it for the those vast majority who wouldn’t dream of using any knife in a harmful way. Fortunately, Glasgow Cathedral hasn’t succumbed to the over-cautious and still allows a Scotsman in full kilt to attend services, get married, etcetera within its precincts. I suspect, as Glaswegians with a strong sense of tradition, they will be the last to ban ceremonial knives if, indeed, they ever do.

So, dear Scots, and visitors of Scottish descent who wear a full kilt regalia you can relax when you visit churches in Glasgow and beyond. They are, so far, safe havens that respect and permit sgian-dubhs. However, please exercise caution in the rough and poor areas of town; sadly there are those who are always ready for a fight on the slimmest of pretexts. So enjoy but be aware.