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Cathedrals in Glasgow

Ø July 31 Glasgow (Wednesday) More pictures from the day can be found here.

Today was my day to visit the four #cathedrals in #Glasgow. We descended for breakfast a bit earlier than planned, again to a cold buffet. Mandra settled in to read while I headed off to the river to return to and visit the Cathedral and Metropolitan Church of St Andrew. Across Clyde Street from a strip park and the River Clyde, the orientation is closer to north-south than east-west. Constructed 1814-16 in the period between the Relief Act of 1791 and 1829 Catholic Relief Act, which granted freedom of worship, the church became a pro-cathedral in 1884 and full Metropolitan Cathedral in 1947.

Neo-Gothic in design, the stones of the exterior take on a pink gold tone in the early morning light (and a more warm yellow gold in the evening.) Entering the brass doors, striped arches lift to the clerestory windows and arched vaulting of an ivory ceiling. The baptismal font rests at one end of the central aisle, with the altar and cathedra in the sanctuary at the apse end. Side aisles lead to a strikingly modern Marian shrine on the east side and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on the west. The chapel has a gold tabernacle on a carved marble altar, with a painting of St John Ogilvie above. The Stations resemble orthodox icon, using gold leaf for the background. Statues of #StAndrew and St Patrick flank the sanctuary. I found an artsy-fartsy shot of the cathedral in the modern mirrored-glass office building next door.

Back to Rab Ha’s to collect Mandra, we strolled up a slight incline as we headed northeast, passing Barony Hall, a very tall red sandstone former church now part of the University of Strathclyde. At the next corner we came to the #StMungo Museum and Glasgow Cathedral. It is also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow, St Kentigern’s, and St Mungo’s Cathedral. The principal entrance is to the west, with a single tower and spire at the crossing. Behind the building and across the Wishart Street culvert is the #GlasgowNecropolis.

Massive. This is one huge church; a tourist destination. The floor of the nave is empty, so the massive columns rise to gothic arches, supporting a gallery, clerestory windows and the wooden ribbed roof. The narrower side aisles have white arch-supported ceilings under the galleries. At the crossing, the columns get larger, to support the stone spire which rises over the area in front of the quire screen. Memorials line the side aisle walls, with stained-glass windows pouring colored light through the south side. Regimental colors and rolls of dead warriors are frequent.

Crossing through the quire screen into the chancel, the choir stalls are on the bridge that is the screen. The pipes of the organ hang on the center columns, and the bosses line the wooden panel ceiling. The side aisle act as an ambulatory, bringing visitors back to the three chapels along the east wall. The altar, referred to by the brochure as the communion table, is of wood, with a carving of the Last Supper on its face. Instead of a cathedra, the Royal Chairs for Her Majesty and Prince Philip are off to the side.

The 40-page guide book yields a lot of information on the stained-glass, much of which has been installed in the last 100 years, replacing the Victorian “restoration”. There are stairs at the crossing which descend to the Lower Church. This is not a crypt, as this is not below ground. The cathedral was built at the edge of a culvert, and the eastern end has a church below the chancel and sanctuary. In its center, the four columns are used to anchor ropes to keep visitors at a distance from the tomb of St Kentigern.

The lighting in the building is superb – details are brilliantly highlighted, and there is much to see. While I spent 90-minutes just inside, I’m sure I could spend that much again and still not see everything. When we finally returned to direct sunlight, 170 pictures taken, I tried to find enough distance to get the whole south side in the camera’s frame. Taking the pedestrian bridge over to the Necropolis, I could capture the immensity of this structure. Mandra had gone up ahead of me, climbing to the memorial on the peak, and she decided to stay there while I pushed on.

When I had related to native Glaswegians that I was there to get pictures of the four cathedrals, I regularly drew a blank from them, as they only knew of St Mungo and St Andrew. Set in the heights to the north and west of downtown, my hour long 2-mile walk took me through Glasgow Caledonian University and under the M8 as I headed eventually down the Great Western Road.

The Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway in the Scottish Episcopal Church (to use the full title) is reportedly open until 2pm per the website. I arrived an hour prior to this close, and was told I was lucky that workmen were awaiting an electrician, as the church was closed afternoons. Entering from the west end, the crossing was to the east with the chancel and a large spire tower at the southeastern end. The exterior stone is red whinstone from Lanark, while the interior is limestone from near Bath.

Wooden pews fill the nave, running from the center aisle past the columns to the walking aisle of the side aisles. A simple wooden table serves as the nave altar. Behind it, an open wrought iron screen yields to the chancel and the sanctuary. The cathedra, a dark carved wooden chair with a canopy sits inside the communion rail to the north of the high altar. The organ is located behind the south choir stalls and under the tower. The entrance/exit doors are panels of etched glass, lit by the open exterior doors of the vestibule.

As I had approached #StMary’s the Nikon battery had died. My spare proved to not have a charge, so I was relying on my phone. Continuing along Great Western Road, I crossed the River Kelvin and then walked past the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. Another mile between churches, I arrived at a quarter to two at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Luke the Evangelist ahead of Professor Pitticas. I’d been in email dialog with the Professor and arranged for him to meet me and allow me to enter the Glasgow cathedral. It began sprinkling as I sat on the steps, resting from my hike.

Purchased in 1960, #StLuke’s had been converted for #GreekOrthodox purposes from the Belhaven Church designed by James Sellars as a Normandy Gothic style church, inspired by Dunblane Cathedral. Constructed of red stone, the stairs lead up from the street to a narthex (vestibule) which opens to either the church or the Greek language school. Inside the nave, there are lancet windows above the arches, with classical icons lining both side walls painted by the first priest. The Iconostasis screens the congregation in the pews from the sanctuary, with three doors allowing celebrants to pass from the Holy of Holies to the nave. The cathedra sits to the west side of the nave, a narrow carved wooden chair with high sidearms and an icon of the seated Christ at its back.

Having a patron, I was sent up into the rear loft where I got raised views of the nave. Nondas took me into the parish hall, used as an education center teaching Greek language and Greek dance. Then the totally unexpected happened: I was asked if I wanted to view behind the iconostasis! To enter the sanctuary of an Orthodox church was something I never expected – I’d been told at other churches to not even take pictures when the central door/curtains were open. So this was a huge privilege for me. And I took only one picture, I was so overwhelmed.

To get back to the city center in slightly wet weather, particularly after over 5 miles already on foot, he suggested that I take the underground. Dropping me off locally, I was faced with a choice – to ride the inner or outer ring, as they follow the same path, but one is clockwise, the other counterclockwise. From Kelvinbridge Station, I was pretty much going to the opposite side of the loop. Maybe 6 stops later, I got off and headed back to Rab Ha’s where I met Mandra at the bar, speaking with a Scotsman. I had a Belhaven after I scooted upstairs to plug in both the phone and the camera.

Having skipped lunch, I placed an order of vegetarian nachos and fritters, and proceeded to my first of two Over Easy’s at the hotel bar. For dinner moules frites and a rocket salad. We apparently also took a walk outside to scope out where we’d have to go to pick up the airport bus on Friday morning and Mandra picked up some more kids’ stuff and whisky gifts – I was done buying stuff. About 10pm I did head down from the room to the bar for last call and had a dram of 10-year old Glengoyne, which I didn’t really like. The batteries were all charging, finally, but Dropbox was rather slow uploading from both the camera and the phone.

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