This morning I was out taking photographs of historic parts of Glasgow and came across the city emblem which can be found in great abundance around the Cathedral area. What follows is the story behind the emblem; this seems somewhat fanciful as these embellished legends often do. Here we go:

  • The tree represented is an oak which commenced life as hazel. The background to this story is that St. Mungo (patron saint of Glasgow Cathedral and also known as Kentigern) was in charge of a holy fire in St. Serf’s Monastery but he fell asleep and other students (jealous of Mungo’s preferred position) put out the fire. However, St. Mungo obtained frozen branches from a hazel tree and by praying over them caused the fire to reignite.This story would date to about the 6th century AD.
  • The bird represented is a wild robin which was tamed by St.Serf but died. St. Mungo was blamed for the death but he was able to restore the bird to life by breathing over it.
  • The fish represented has a ring in its mouth. The background to this dates back about 1500 years when the King of Strathclyde gave his queen a ring as a present. She gave to a knight who lost it. The King demanded to see the ring on pain of death. The knight confessed to St. Mungo who arranged for a fish to be caught in the river. The fish was cut open by St. Mungo and found the ring. The symbol of fish with ring was incorporated in the Bishop of Glasgow’s personal seal around 1271 and was subsequently incorporated in the Glasgow coat of arms.
  • The bell represents “St.Mungo’s Bell” which was commissioned in 1450 when John Stewart, the first Lord Provost of Glasgow, left an endowment so that the inhabitants could pray for his soul every time the bell was tolled. The practice of ringing the bell continued at least until 1578.

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