Glasgow – St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral

DSC03277There was a cheap deal on Virgin Trains, and a day return from Crewe to Glasgow for £14 is not to be sniffed at. On time into Glasgow, and time for a walk. I had never been down to the Clyde, so walked down the side of the station to the river. It is not the most beautiful river, but there is a bridge leaflet here. The piers are those of the first Caledonian Railway Bridge, built in 1878 and demolished in 1966. The current railway bridge is the 1905 Caledonian Railway Company’s ‘New Clyde Viaduct’. Before opening it was load tested with 19 locomotives.” Imagine being the chap driving loco nineteen. The road bridge on the right of the top photo the George the Fifth Bridge opened in 1928.  The statue is called La Pasionaria, and is by Arthur Dooley. It commemorates those who fought in the Spanish Civil War. More details here.

DSC03293DSC03286DSC03289I had walked this way to come and visit one of the Betjeman Best Churches, St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral – congratulations on a superb website and domain name . DSC03295DSC03296The foundation stone was laid in 1814 as a church was needed to serve the growing numbers of Catholics in the City.  Many of these were labourers, who had come from the Catholic districts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and across from Ireland. Their parish priest was Andrew Scott, and this church is a result of amazing work by a poor community. The architect was James Gillespie Graham. It was one of the first buildings in Scotland of the Neo-Gothic revival, as influenced by Pugin (a good friend of Graham’s). In 1878 it became the seat of the Archbishop of Glasgow and (officially) the Cathedral. It was restored between 2009 and 2011. The guidebook (an excellent publication) says “the 2011 restoration brought light, colour and fresh décor to the Cathedral.” The door was open so I walked in to a beautiful space.


In the porch we have a mosaic from 2011, designed by Netta Ewing and crafted by the studio of Hani Mourad in Bethlehem. St Andrew and St Mungo were painted by Brendan Barry in 2010. In background of the first painting, St Rule is seen handing over a casket with St Andrew’s relics to a monk waiting on the shore below the cliffs at St Andrews. St Mungo is portrayed standing on a wooded hillside above the Clyde Valley.


The font is very special, and the white marble leads from door to font to altar.


The font was sculpted by Tim Pomeroy in 2011 from a four tonne block of Carrara marble, from the same quarry Michelangelo used for his masterpieces. The water springs up from the bases – a direct link to John 4.14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst … it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Lovely carving when you get down and look.


Also worth looking up  – though I didn’t quite get the ceiling boss in focus.


The High Altar and Sanctuary are rather special, with the words of St Andrew and St Peter engraved on the altar. The glass dates to 1859, but they have no record of the artist. The decoration was all renewed at the restoration, and adds just the right amount of colour and sparkle to the church.


On the north side is the Blessed Sacrament Aisle and Chapel. The painting is of Saint John Ogilvie, and is by Peter Howson 2010. The guide says that he is “illuminated by a column of light and radiating peace to the onlooker”. I have to disagree – a picture of a man about to be hanged does not radiate peace to me. He was martyred in 1615 at Glasgow Cross – part of our country’s history that should sadden us. I hope he accepted his death and found peace, I hope that the many who are martyred this day find peace as they accept death – but I’m not sure that I should find peace as I watch. Perhaps my unease is because I am part of the Established Church, the Church that caused him to be killed.



DSC03302On the south side is the Lady Aisle. The traditional statue, from the C19 altar, now surmounts the new sacristy door. The angels either side, and the figures of the door, were designed by Jack Sloan and worked in steel by Hector McGarva. On the doors we have Saints Ninian, Brigid, Andrew, Mungo, Margaret of Scotland and Columba, each identified by the symbols proper to them. Lots of candle lighting opportunities too!


Outside is an Italian Cloister Garden, which would have been lovelier if the rain hadn’t started. It was designed by the Roman architect Giulia Chiarini. A 200 year old olive tree, gifted by the people of Tuscany, has been planted, and a fountain and stream traverse the central space. There are plaques telling the sotry of the Cathedral, sculptured Coats of Arms from the medieval past, and a memorial to the Arandora Star, torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland on 2 July 1940. 805 lives were lost, many of them Italian. There are two websites with details – here and here.

DSC03329DSC03330DSC03331On the other side, the Cathedral is reflected in the modern building – the two go very well together. I had really enjoyed my visit here.

DSC03336After lunch I went to Central Station for a guided tour – their website has excellent photos. The original station is 1879, with a major rebuild at the turn of the century. Paul was our guide, and we went down under the platforms. Coal and grain were stored here, you can see where the horses were tied, gas mantles and lots of rivets. We were told many stories, including about the War dead when they were still bought back from France in 1914. The bodies would be taken off the train, and laid out in the vault below. Wives, mothers, girlfriends and sisters would come to see if they could identify their loved ones – imagine the state of the corpses. If they found them, then they had the responsibility of getting his body home (the army’s responsibility finished when they arrived in Glasgow). Upstairs to find a couple of men hanging round the station, and hope they would carry for you if you paid them a couple of shillings. Can you imagine their pain? Paul is hoping to get a memorial – the painted boards were part of a temporary display – he also has plans to clean and restore some of the deepest parts of the station, perhaps to get a coach in the platform. It will be worth going back. A fascinating afternoon – highly recommended.


I amaze myself how much I can pack into one day!


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