Skip to content
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland

Opening times

1 April to 30 September:
Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
Sunday, 1pm to 5pm

1 October to 31 March:
Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm
Sunday, 1pm to 4pm

Glasgow Cathedral will be closed to accommodate third party filming from Monday 2 October - Friday 6 October.

Check here for unexpected closures
 

History

Glasgow Cathedral stands near the heart of Scotland’s largest city. It’s the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 virtually intact.

Around it there used to be a chanonry – a precinct where the bishops (and, later, archbishops) and clergy lived. A thriving burgh sprang up to its south and west under the bishops’ patronage. Since then, the burgh has grown into the great metropolis we know today.

Shrine of St Kentigern

This inspiring edifice dates mostly from the 1200s. It was dedicated to St Kentigern, also known as St Mungo.

Kentigern is believed to have been the first bishop of the area that is modern Strathclyde. His influence spread widely, and it was later claimed he led a diocese stretching from Loch Lomond to Cumbria.

It’s thought that Kentigern was buried on the cathedral site around 612.

Beacon of prayer

Glasgow Cathedral is one of the finest buildings of the 1200s to survive in mainland Scotland. Parts of it are older still.

Building fabric from Bishop Jocelin’s time (1174–99) is still standing. He is recorded as ‘gloriously enlarging’ his cathedral in 1181. Fragments from the previous cathedral have also been found.

When a fire halted Jocelin’s work, it fell to his successors – notably Bishop William de Bondington (1233–58) – to finish the cathedral.

The end result was a Gothic creation consisting of:

  • rows of pointed arches
  • windows with slender tracery (stone divisions)
  • an unusual array of three vaulted aisles around the presbytery and choir

The intention was to house a shrine to St Kentigern at the main level, behind the high altar, to complement the saint’s tomb in the crypt beneath.

Reform and reuse

The Reformation removed the need for bishops answerable to the Pope. Until their final abolition in 1689, bishops continued in the church in Scotland, but their role was greatly reduced.

Glasgow Cathedral was ‘cleansed’ of its Catholic trappings and put to use as a parish kirk – in fact, three parish kirks. The choir housed the Inner High Kirk; the west end of the nave, the Outer High Kirk; and the crypt, the Barony Kirk.

But a growing appreciation of the qualities of medieval architecture led to another change. By 1835, both the Outer High Kirk and the Barony Kirk had left the premises. This left the great medieval cathedral to return to something approaching its former glory.

In 1836, the cathedral became state State property. By 1857, the entire building was looked after by the State. A campaign of restoration began and continues to this day.

 

Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Save with an Explorer Pass

Get free entry to Scotland’s top visitor attractions with an Explorer Pass valid for 3 days or 7 days.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

View learning activities

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.