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Harpist Carissa

See also the articles on the St Mungo Festival and on the St Margaret 2016 celebrations at the website of the
Sisters of Notre Dame – http://www.snduk.org/

There Vita Kentigerni – the Life of St Mungo

Glasgow’s annual celebration in honour of its founding patron saint, St. Mungo, had its first church event with a short service arranged by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) in what might seem an unusual setting, the ground floor of the Mitchell Library – its 8th year in this location. It possibly startles some of those present who are there to use the library facilities (including the banks of computers) or relax with a cup of tea, but it is a good way to get the message out to a wider audience about Glasgow’s Christian heritage. Initial attention was caught by the beautiful harp playing of Carissa Swan.

The service centres around readings from the 12th century Vita Kentigerna written by Jocelyn of Furness and commissioned by another Jocelyn, Bishop Jocelyn of Glasgow. They were delivered this year by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow (in the original Latin) and Dr. Laurence Whitley of Glasgow Cathedral (in English).

The excerpts told the story of election of St.Mungo as bishop of what was described as the Cumbrian region, at the behest of the King, clergy and the rest of the Christian community. They described the setting up of his “cathedra” at Glesgu, which Jocelyn says means “dear family” rather than the more usual translation “dear green place”, and Mungo’s calling together of a community, his preaching to the people and baptising his new converts, and finally the submission by King Rhydderch of his temporal authority to the saint.

Archbishop Tartaglia and Dr. Whitley

Archbishop Tartaglia and Dr. Whitley

Former Glasgow City Council Baillie Mrs. Cathy McMaster, in introducing the service after the opening chanting of an extract from the mediaeval Vespers of St. Mungo by Archbishop Emeritus Conti and the St. Mungo Singers, invited people to consider how it would be possible for us in the 21st century to become part of Glasgow in the 12th century. She suggested that the opening of the service could give us an idea, as it was in effect an enactment of what the Canons of Glasgow Cathedral have sung before listening (as we were about to do) to the reading of the Vita Kentigerna.

Bishop Jocelyn , who had commissioned the book, was a Cistercian and a former Abbot of Melrose Abbey who had been appointed Bishop of Glasgow to help develop Glasgow as a city. He commissioned Jocelyn of Furness who was, as she put it “a great scriptwriter”, to turn the rough folk tales of St. Mungo into the polished story that we have now.

She invited those present to listen, and to learn and understand why this story was important for Glasgow. It helped the church and community in Glasgow to resist the attempts of the bishops of St. Andrews and of York to claim authority over the diocese. Yet Bishop Jocelyn was not popular with everyone in Glasgow because he was involved in and successful in handling the politics of his day, and this was not always appreciated, a situation which is still often the case today. She closed with an invitation to listen and to use our imaginations.

To add colour to the service, Principal Archivist of Glasgow City Council, introduced the children of the Children’s Singing Studio of Glasgow Russian Orthodox School (the Russian Orthodox community also honours St. Mungo) who sang beautifully a hymn in honour of St. Mungo and a couple of festive pieces. The sight of a little reindeer held by the youngest child brought smiles to the faces of those listening.

At the end of the service, the St. Mungo Singers led everyone in singing the Glasgow anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish”.