[MR] Saint Mungo, Patron of Glasgow
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 13 03:08:14 PST 2023
Noble Friends, especially fellow Scots,
Today is the feast day (and death date) of Saint Kentigern, more popularly
known as Saint Mungo. He was an early evangelist in what would later be
Scotland, and is considered the founder, first bishop and Patron Saint of
That my SCA name is also Mungo is a happy coincidence. The very real Mungo
Napier was a 16th century Burgess of Dumbarton, and it was his genealogical
record that I used to justify my choice of name. I did not learn about
Saint Mungo until later.
Lady Sarah Sinclair and I visited Saint Mungo's Cathedral in 2017. It was
for me, the high point of our Scotland trip.
Rather than belabor you with a Wikipedia link, below is a section from a
proposed University of Atlantia class on Scottish saints I have "on the
Spike" (so to speak) for future use. Sorry I cannot include my photos of
the Cathedral and Saint Mungo's tomb, but they won't display on this board.
The entire class handout with photos and footnotes can be found at
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
SAINT MUNGO, GLASGOW’S FOUNDER
Saint Kentigern, popularly known as Saint Mungo (“Dear Friend”), is a
saint about whom few real facts are known. An 1186 *vita* written by
Jocelyn of Furness draws from legends and an earlier work, adds miracles
borrowed from other saints, and more than a dash of pure fantasy. Jocelyn’s
work was a promotional piece written for the Pope to justify Saint Mungo’s
pilgrimage. Some of Jocelyn’s claims have been disproven, so it should only
be read with great caution.
Mungo is thought to have been born about 518, probably in the Brithonic
kingdom of Alt Clut (later called Strathclyde). This Cumbric
(Welsh)-speaking kingdom’s capital was on the Rock of Dumbarton, and ruled
lands as far east as modern Glasgow, north into the Highlands around Loch
Lomond, and south into Galloway. It was an area briefly controlled by the
Romans after the Antonine Wall was built, and subject to Roman trade and
cultural influence until they left Britain in 410 AD. The area may have
been partly Christianized in the 4th century, and some Christians might
still have been active there when Mungo began his ministry.
Jocelyn claimed Mungo was foster-fathered and educated by Saint
Serf at his monastery in Culross, Fife. Mungo was ordained in
his 25th year, probably about 543, and began preaching and baptizing around
what would someday become Glasgow. At some point during this phase of his
ministry he was consecrated as a bishop.
Around 560 a pagan King of Alt Clut, named Morken or possibly Morcant,
began persecuting Christians. Mungo fled to Wales where he stayed with
Bishop David of Mynyw, considered to be the evangelist to the Welsh. Mungo
is said to have preached and founded churches in Wales under David’s
leadership. Mungo’s exile ended about 573 when a later Christian king of
Alt Clut, Rhydderch Hael (possibly Morcant’s brother), asked Mungo to
resume his mission. Mungo settled first at Hoddam in southern Galloway
where Rhydderch Hael had a fortress, later returning to Glasgow.
Mungo spent his remaining days at his wooden cathedral at Glasgow. The
secular town grew next to Mungo’s church and monastery. According to
Jocelyn, Mungo died in 612 or 614 in his bath after mass. He was buried
before the cathedral altar, and was instantly acclaimed a saint.
Saint Mungo’s tiny wooden church was replaced by a stone church, itself
later replaced by the ever-growing gothic cathedral begun in 1136, and
still standing today. Each successive church centered on the saint’s tomb,
but as the church was on a hillside, the tomb ended up in the undercroft.
Pilgrimage to Saint Mungo’s tomb became very popular, eventually becoming
the 3rd most important pilgrim shrine in Scotland. After his elevation to
the Glasgow See in 1174, Bishop Jocelyn of Glasgow, who had successfully
created a pilgrimage shrine to Saint Waltheof at Melrose Abbey, took charge
of promoting Saint Mungo. It was Bishop Jocelyn who hired Jocelyn of
Furness to write the flamboyant 1186 *vita *partly to impress the Pope, as
saints could not be venerated unless approved by Rome.
The final church was intentionally designed, or redesigned, as a huge
pilgrim processing machine. Pilgrims began their visit in the nave where
there were a number of altars to various saints. Then they circled around
the choir and chancel where an elaborate (but possibly empty),* feretory*
or reliquary shrine to Saint Mungo was located behind the high altar. Next
the pilgrims were routed down to the undercroft to worship at more shrines
of various saints, ending at Saint Mungo’s actual tomb. By another stairway
they returned to the nave, and exited the building.
There were at least three attempts to translate Saint Mungo to the
feretory shrine behind the high altar. This required papal approval, but
was denied each time. The Saint’s body remained in the undercroft with its
own shrine, unless (as some writers suspect) Bishop Jocelyn had the relics
moved without permission. Many believe Saint Mungo is still buried beneath
his slab in the undercroft, though a cursory investigation of the tomb in
1898 was inconclusive.
Saint Mungo’s Cathedral was “cleansed” of its altars and “papist”
decoration in 1559. In 1578, Glasgow magistrates decided to tear the entire
church down, and use the stone to build smaller parish churches. When the
wreckers arrived at the Cathedral, they were met by a mob of armed trade
guild members who promised that whoever knocked down the first stone would
be buried under it. The tradesmen would not leave until the wrecking crews
had all been discharged. The tradesmen might have been solidly protestant,
but this was THEIR church and they were not going to allow any more
Today a restored Saint Mungo’s Cathedral (technically not a cathedral, as
it is no longer a bishop’s seat) is owned by Historic Environment Scotland.
The Cathedral is open to the public for an admission charge, and guided
tours are offered. Regular services are still held in the chancel area by a
local Kirk of Scotland (protestant) parish.
More information about the Atlantia