About the Cathedral

At a Glance: Cathedral Worship Past and Present

The building of Glasgow Cathedral began in 1136 and took about 350 years to finish.

The cathedral was dedicated to St Kentigern (or St Mungo), a Christian missionary in the area during the 6th century AD. His tomb had attracted pilgrims from all over. Therefore, the site was seen as holy and a resource of grace.

The Gothic Cathedral’s architecture embodied the outreach of the Gospel and the entire process of the salvation of troubled humanity. The Roman Catholic Latin Mass represented this liturgically.

With the Protestant Reformation there were dramatic changes. There was a switch from elaborate liturgy and ceremony to a plain service of Bible lessons, preaching, prayer to God alone, congregational singing, and the Sacrament of Communion as a communal meal of thanksgiving sitting at tables. Reformers cleared the building’s interiors of all pictures, statues, and numerous chapels.

The Reformed Church of Scotland took a long time to decide whether its ministry should be exercised by bishops and priests in dioceses, or by bishops and elders in presbyteries. In 1690 the presbyterian system became definitive. Subsequently bishops and the episcopalian order had no further role.

In recent centuries the austere appearance of the interior and strict simplicity of worship was relaxed to conform with changing tastes in church art, architecture, and forms of worship. But the origins of Cathedral worship are still the Scottish Reformation Book of Common Order (1565).