The story of Glasgow Cathedral surviving fire, lightning and vandals

The Reformation saw the destruction of hundreds of cathedrals across Europe, but Glasgow Cathedral is the only one on the Scottish mainland that has remained intact.

In doing so, it has preserved over a thousand years of history and continued its legacy into modern times.

The cathedral actually served as the site of a turning point in Scottish history, when a disgraced Robert the Bruce fled there to meet Bishop Robert Wishart, after killing a nobleman John Comyn.

Robert the Bruce

It was here that Bruce was granted absolution and the clergy began to rally around him and accompany him to Scone where he would be crowned as Robert I, a monumental step in the Wars of Independence.

Its origins date back to the 6th century AD when Saint Mungo – the patron saint of our city – built a small wooden church and a community formed around it. When he died in AD 614, Saint Mungo himself was buried near what is now the Lower Choir.

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David I oversaw the construction of the first stone cathedral in 1136, but it only lasted a few decades and was destroyed in a fire. Its replacement is the building we see today, consecrated in 1197.

Over the following centuries the cathedral would undergo major building work, and at this time the central tower and spire, a bell tower and a south-west tower were added. The central tower, spire and chapter house were rebuilt after lightning struck the building in 1406.

But lightning wouldn’t strike twice. While the Catholic features of the building and the lead in the roof were removed during the Scottish Reformation, the building itself was retained for use as a Protestant place of worship.

Despite the vandalism, Glasgow residents pledged to take care of it. The City Council levied a levy for the repairs, the lead in the roof was repaired, and in 1581 King James VI used revenue from other lands for the City of Glasgow solely for the cathedral.

The cathedral is open daily to the public who can visit for free.

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