Celebrating the Feast of St Mungo

glasgow coat of arms

Glasgow’s coat of arms, depicting St Mungo and the four legends associated with him

On Sunday 13th January, churches across Glasgow are marking the Feast of St Mungo (also known as St Kentigern), Glasgow’s 6th-century founder, first Bishop and patron saint. At St Columba’s our parish choir will be joined by Canty, Scotland’s only professional Medieval music group, to perform some very special early Scottish chant, as well a new psalm setting written for the occasion by James MacMillan.

Canty comprises members of the renowned Scottish choir, Cappella Nova, whose directors, Alan and Rebecca Tavener, are closely associated both with St Columba’s and the work our choirmaster, James MacMillan. Cappella Nova works tirelessly to preserve Scotland’s unique treasury of early vocal music, and to promote the best of our country’s contemporary choral writing.

The earliest extant record of Mungo’s life and ministry dates from the 12th-century – the colourful ‘Vita Kentigerni’ (The Life of Kentigern) by the Cistercian monk, Jocelyn Furness. It was commissioned by Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow in order to raise awareness and appreciation of one of Scotland’s few indigenous saints, who was so venerated by the Celts of the diocese. Bishop Jocelin remains one of Scotland’s greatest literary patrons, having also commissioned the Medieval ‘Chronicles of Melrose’ and the equally impressive ‘Vita Waldevi’ (Life of St Waltheof). On Saturday at noon, Archbishop Tartaglia will read extracts from the Vita Kentigerni at an event in the Mitchell Library. The completed volume on Mungo offers a vivid and somewhat literary account of his episcopal ministry:

“And so from the golden censer of his own most pure heart, filled with living coals of virtue and kindled with divine love, his prayer passed through the clouds and penetrated heaven as a most clear and fragrant incense. And immersing itself into the unapproachable light, it was guided into the presence of the Lord, so that the Most High himself granted it to be accepted as a sweet odour to himself and to declare this by manifest signs in the eyes of men. For many times as he touched the divine sacraments, a snow white dove, having a beak as if of gold, was seen to rest upon his head and covered him and that which was placed on the altar with the transparent flapping of its wings like the rays of the sun.” (Chapter xvi, Vita Kentigerni)

Our city’s motto – ‘Lord Let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of Thy Word and the Praising of Thy Name’ – is said to derive from one of Mungo’s sermons, which along with his image and emblems of his four miracles, features in the Glasgow coat of arms pictured above.

sprouston breviary excerptAt our 11am Mass, the liturgy will have an authentically Scottish flavour, with several pieces from the 13th-century ‘Sprouston Breviary’ – currently held in the National Library of Scotland. The Breviary contains a complete sung Office (Vespers, Matins & Lauds) for St Kentigern, much of which has been recorded by Cappella Nova. Click on the image to view a short extract from the Office. The texts are richly poetic, evoking episodes from Mungo’s life related to his four reported miracles:

“People of Cambria together with the Queen, rejoice in exultant dance.

Weals and weeping, grief and fear and imminent death

now loose their hold and are purged away by a life-restoring remedy.” (Gens Cambrina from the Sprouston Breviary)

Our Mass Setting for Sunday is James MacMillan’s St Anne’s Mass, which was recently chosen by the Archdiocese of Westminster as its recommended setting of the new ICEL translation. James’ new psalm will be sung as part of our Sunday morning liturgy, and also at a special ‘Celebrate St Kentigern’ concert at the Barony Hall in the afternoon. This free concert will also feature the Strathclyde University Chamber Choir, which has sung at St Columba’s on many occasions.


  1. Here’s an idea you can have for free: why not set up a Diocesan Society under the patronage of St. Mungo to champion and popularise the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on sacred music in the liturgy?

  2. What a lovely and novel idea. I would support that. Thank you.

  3. thornlyboy · · Reply

    Sounds like a good idea, so long as you do not mean the standardof music to which we hve become accustomed. It would also be good to have a proper choir in evry parish and to revive all the neglected organs. And burn all the guitars.

  4. thornlyboy · · Reply

    Apologies for the typos, but I think you know what I meant.

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