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St Andrew’s and St Mary’s became Cathedrals with the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy by Pope Leo XIII in 1878.
As an aside, the first Catholic Cathedral to have been built as such in the post reformation period in Britain was St Chad’s in Birmingham between 1839 and 1841. Designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, a contemporary and subsequently a friend of James Gillespie Graham to whom his recent biography records he sent drawings – but not as far as I know for St Andrew’s, which was finished in 1816, the year after the Battle of Waterloo. As such it is older than St Chad’s but the English and Welsh Catholic hierarchy was restored 28 years earlier than in Scotland, in 1850.
When built, St Andrew’s was regarded by commentators as the “most commodious Catholic Church in Britain”.
It is interesting to note that while the growth of the Catholic communities in the cities of the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries warranted both the restoration of the traditional structures of the Catholic Church and the building of Cathedrals, the obverse may be said to have been the case in the early centuries of our country’s history.
When, from a largely rural society, urban areas started to form, often as in Glasgow at river fords – a natural hub of commerce, or, after the cessation of Norse incursions, at coastal ports, ecclesiastical centres provided a natural focus for these urban developments. Many of them after all had the right to hold fairs on feast days.
At least three of these ecclesiastical centres, namely St Andrews in Fife, Glasgow and Aberdeen became also the centres for universities, established by Bishops with royal patronage and papal authority. It has often been pointed out that Govan or Partick or even Dumbarton might have developed to carry its name as the city on the Clyde, but for the presence in Glasgow of its important ecclesiastical centre and its cathedral.