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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Buildings and Cityscape


By Stephen T Driscoll

Grave slabs The oldest grave yard in Glasgow is at Govan Old Parish Church and is marked out by an oval boundary which archaeological excavation has shown goes back at least to the 8th century. Within the enclosure are burials which have been dated to the early 6th century, which makes them among the earliest known Christian burials in central Scotland. The earliest of these burials appears to be over a century older than the earliest excavated grave at the Cathedral, although Kentigern himself is believed to have been buried there in an existing cemetery c. 614.

Hogback gravestone Govan also has the most conspicuous medieval burial monuments. There are five "hogback" monuments (house shaped stones) from the 10th century which reveal a strong Norse influence. These are followed by over thirty flat slabs incised with interlace crosses which can be dated to the 10th and 11th centuries. No sculpture of comparable early date is know from elsewhere in Glasgow.

Bishop Wishart's Memorial A cemetery grew up around the site of Kentigern's grave prior to the construction of the Cathedral and quickly became the most important burial ground in the region. As the Cathedral developed the intensity of burial activity in and around it increased. In particular, the wealthiest members of the community were buried within the Cathedral's nave. Excavations have revealed tightly packed graves, in places four or five deep. There are a number of grave slabs in the cathedral cemetery which are medieval in date, but they are quite worn and simply demonstrate that the cemetery outside the cathedral was filling up too. Possibly the most interesting late medieval gravestones in Glasgow are two fluted examples, one with an incised sword, found in Old Cathcart churchyard.

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