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The two Cathedrals which I compare are St Mungo’s and St Andrew’s and you might think there was no comparison. It surprised me, however, to find that in pacing out the two buildings, St Andrew’s is some feet broader than St Mungo’s. However, if we were to reduce the comparison simply to the chancel of St Mungo’s you would discover that the number of bays at St Andrew’s is the same, namely five, and the columns dividing them too similar not to have been copied by James Gillespie Graham from St Mungo’s. I wonder whether the Rev Andrew Scott had directed him there for inspiration when giving him the commission to build a chapel for the Catholic community which since the late 16th century had not had a permanent place of worship nor had needed one until the beginning of the 19th.
St Andrew’s was built in three years between 1814 and 1816. James Gillespie Graham was proud enough of his building to have chiselled on the inner face of the archway of the main door his name and the date, 1814.
I sometimes speculate as to whether, with the ambition that was already evident in the building of this church, it was conceived simply as the nave of a larger church which might in favourable circumstances be increased in size as the need might arise.
It has of course arisen and one of my motivations in embarking upon the work which over the last few years we have undertaken at St Andrew’s was the need to increase its space so that on larger occasions there would be sufficient room for the numbers that would be expected.
At a certain stage in the development of plans a decision had to be made whether to proceed with a new chancel to the building or with the cloister which as an idea had emerged in the meantime as a way of ensuring both additional space for worship and a space suited also for social, educational and pastoral gatherings of the faithful or indeed for exhibition purposes.
We have in fact laid the foundations for that and it is likely to be the way in which future work at St Andrew’s will be undertaken.
Looking at St Mungo’s we recognise how over the years similar decisions were made, though as far as I know, no plans were ever laid for a cloister which in so many Cathedrals, particularly south of the border, are a regular feature of their complexes.
Of course we need to take into account that in many instances the chapters of the Cathedrals, in other words the body of priests and other ministers required for the Cathedral liturgy, were provided by members of the Benedictine Order which would also likely account for the way in which developments took place with chancels set up for responsorial singing as in monastic choirs, with the Bishop having his own stall in choir, distinguished by a more elaborate canopy over it but, nevertheless, part of the choir set up.
This is far removed in style from the old Roman Basilican churches where the seat of the Bishop or presiding priest was in the apse with the supporting ministers in an arc to his right and left. Following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the encouragement for the priest to face the congregation in the liturgy of the Mass, it became possible for that pattern to be restored and any visitors to St Andrew’s Cathedral will see how it works in practice.