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It was David I, son of Queen Margaret of Scotland and King Malcolm Canmore,who did much to continue the ecclesiastical reforms prompted by his saintly mother. It was he who re-established the bishopbric at old Aberdeen at the mouth of the Don which formerly had its centre at Mortlach in Upper Banffshire.
Even earlier, while still Earl and Lord of Strathclyde, David had instituted an enquiry into the lands belonging to the Church of Glasgow and having confirmed them, refounded the bishopbric of Strathclyde which historically owed its existence to the missionary activities of St Kentigern in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, contemporary therefore with St Columba who died at Iona in 597, the same year as Pope Gregory the Great, sent St Augustine and his monks to Britain for the conversion of the English (the Angles and Saxons).
There is little “authentic information” about Kentigern other than the likelihood of his being born in Culross, Fife, around 540, but certainly he exercised a ministry in the British kingdom of Strathclyde, that is, “in lands from the River Forth in the north to what is now Cumbria in northwest England”, not perhaps the first Bishop missionary in this territory but the first to be chosen by the King and clergy as Bishop, as stated in Abbot Jocelin’s life of St Kentigern. This life was commissioned by the Bishop of the same name whose building work was therefore not only in the physical church but also in a sense in the spiritual.
According to that life and supported by archaeological as well as literary evidences, St Kentigern established also, or made his centre for a time, at Hoddom in Dumfriesshire and also founded the church in North Wales at St Asaph, whose Anglican bishop addressed us at the ecumenical service held in St Mungo’s Cathedral earlier this week to mark the feast.
Kentigern died and was buried in Glasgow around 612/614 meaning that this year could mark the 1400th anniversary of his death. He was recognised as a saint and confessor in lists of saints (martyrologies) dating from the 9th century, and his tomb was venerated as a goal of pilgrimage, King Edward I of England making an offering at his shrine in 1301 of seven shillings! A later Bishop, Bishop Wishart, at the time when Scots were struggling for their independence, supported first of all William Wallace and then Bruce, and any further offering from an English king would hardly thereafter have been made or welcomed!
The Cathedral we see today and in which the city glories, contains no remnant of the church or churches it replaced earlier in the restoration of the see. Much more could be said of its architectural magnificence, with recollection of its rich furnishings from the late medieval period, and its use thereafter as the site of no less than three congregations of the citizens of Glasgow, but time does not allow it.
It remains a place of worship for Christians, and developments over recent years have seen an increasing number of ecumenical services taking place within it, so that it is not simply an architectural ornament of the city and, as a building, a great reminder of our history, it is also, still, the mother church of Glasgow’s Christians, and the place where its citizens can gather together under the mantle of St Mungo and pray together for the unity of the Church and the well being of their city …
Let Glasgow Flourish!