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Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

This imposing Gothic building today stands hemmed in by the Royal Infirmary with the Necropolis behind. The best view of the cathedral as a whole is from John Knox's stance high up in the Necropolis where the verticality of the composition is best appreciated. This is the fourth church on the site beside the Molendinar Burn, where St Mungo built his original wooden church in the 7C. The main part of the cathedral was built in the 13C and 14C with construction progressing from the east end to the nave, and it was the 15C before the building took on its final appearance with the reconstruction of the chapter house and addition of the Blacader Aisle, central tower and stone spire, and the now demolished west front towers. Unusual features of the plan are the non- projecting transepts and two-storeyed east end.

The Nave is stylistically later than the choir and the elevation with its richly molded and pointed arches, ever more numerous at each level, rises to the timber roof. The 15C stone screen or pulpitum, unique in Scotland, marks the change in level from nave to choir. The figures at the top of the screen depict the seven deadly sins ; the human figures on the front of the altar platforms may represent 11 disciples.

The choir and the lower church, both dating from the mid-13C, are of the finest First Pointed style. The great beauty derives from a combination of harmonious elevations and finely worked details. Note in particular the varied and vigorously carved foliate capitals and corbels and gaily tinctured bosses of the ambulatory vaulting, behind the high altar. The triple lancets of the clerestory are echoed in the design of the east window which depicts the Four Evangelists. Four chapels open out of the ambulatory beyond. From the northernmost chapel a door leads through to the upper chapter room, reconstructed in the 15C. It was there that the medieval university held its classes.

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