As the Christian monk and bishop who evangelised Cumbria and Strathclyde in the 6th and 7th centuries, St Kentigern earned himself the affectionate name of Mungo (Celtic for 'dear friend'). He was the son of Theneu, daughter of King Loth of the royal house of Gododdin in Lothian. His father was a certain Prince Ewen, who had seduced Theneu by pretending to be a girl. The incensed king expelled his daughter and her illegitimate son from his kingdom, casting them into an open boat on the River Forth. They drifted for some time before being rescued and given shelter by the monks of Culross Abbey. There, according to legend, the future saint was tutored by St Servanus (Serf), whose cult flourished in Pictland around Gododdin.
Mungo became a monk and a missionary and, according to a 12th-century account of his life, spent a lengthy period in Wales. He was then recalled to Strathclyde by Rhydderch Hael, king of the region.
This ruler, who was evidently a powerful force in the early Christian church, established Mungo within his kingdom.
On arriving in Glasgow Mungo founded a small monastery on land that had been consecrated by St Ninian in the 4th century. Mungo was eventually buried here and the monastery became a place of pilgrimage and the centre of a diocese that embraced the whole kingdom of Strathclyde. On his death in 612 St Mungo became the patron saint of Glasgow; his miracles are commemorated in the city's coat of arms.
Here's the Tree that never grew
Here's the Bird that never.flew
Here's the Bell that never rang
Here's the Fish that never swam.
The tree represents a frozen bough, which burst into flames when light was needed; the bird is a tame robin belonging to St Serf, which some boys had killed but which St Mungo had brought back to life; the bell was one consecrated and brought back from Rome by St
Mungo; and the fish, together with a ring, refer to a miracle associated with the wife of King Rhydderch. The king, it seems, had given his wife a ring. Foolishly she had given it to a favourite soldier and the king, seeing it on his finger as he slept by the banks of the Clyde, took it off and flung it into the river. The king then asked the queen where his ring was. In despair the queen confessed all to St Mungo, who miraculously arranged for the ring to be found inside a salmon fished out of the Clyde.
Among these various symbols St Mungo is shown as a bishop preaching from a mound miraculously raised so that all could hear him say, 'Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word.'
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