In recent times there has been a renewal of interest in St Mungo in Glasgow, the city with whose foundation he is associated, and on whose Coat of Arms he features.

Portrait of St Mungo by Netta Ewing

Portrait of St Mungo by Netta Ewing

Mungo’s mother, known as St. Enoch, was the daughter of the Brythonic king, Lleuddun who ruled in the Haddington region of Scotland, possibly the Kingdom of Gododdin in the Old North. She became pregnant by Owain mab Urien according to the British Library manuscript. Her furious father had her thrown from the heights of Traprain Law. Surviving, she was then abandoned in a coracle in which she drifted across the River Forth to Culross in Fife, where Mungo was born. Mungo was brought up by Saint Serf who served the Picts in that area. It was Serf who gave him his popular pet-name.

At the age of twenty-five, Mungo began his missionary labours near the Clyde, on the site of modern Glasgow. Christianity had already been introduced to the region by Saint Ninian and his followers welcomed the saint and procured his consecration by an Irish bishop. He built his church at the confluence of the Clyde and the Molendinar Burn, where the present medieval cathedral now stands. For some thirteen years, he laboured in the district, living a most austere life in a small cell and making many converts by his holy example and his preaching.

A strong anti-Christian movement in Strathclyde, headed by King Morken, compelled Mungo to leave and he moved to Wales, via Cumbria, staying for a time with Saint David at St David’s, and afterwards moving on to Gwynedd where he founded a cathedral at Llanelwy (now St Asaph). While there, it has been suggested that he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome. However, the new King of Strathclyde, Riderch Hael, invited Mungo to return to his kingdom. He decided to go and appointed Saint Asaph as Bishop of Llanelwy in his place.

For some years, Mungo fixed his Episcopal seat at Hoddom in Dumfriesshire, evangelising thence the district of Galloway. He eventually returned to Glasgow where a large community grew up around him, becoming known as Clas-gu (meaning the ‘dear family’).

It was nearby, in Kilmacolm, that he was visited by Saint Columba, who was at that time labouring in Strathtay. The two saints embraced, held long converse, and exchanged their pastoral staves. There is some evidence to suggest that Mungo also laboured in the north of Scotland near Huntly.

He is said to have died in his bath, on Sunday 13 January.