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Glasgow, Scotland: Glasgow Cathedral & Tomb of Saint John Ogilvie

About the Glasgow Cathedral:

Glasgow Cathedral
Photo credit: Ruth Avila

The building of Glasgow Cathedral began in 1136 and took about 350 years to finish. The cathedral was dedicated to St Kentigern (or St Mungo), a Christian missionary in the area during the 6th century AD. His tomb had attracted pilgrims from all over.

As is often the case in the United Kingdom, the Glasgow Cathedral was turned in to a protestant church during the Reformation and remain so today, notwithstanding its name as a Cathedral; however, it still has links to its Catholic past, since it contains the tombs of several martyrs.

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, and his tomb lies at the center of the Lower Church. It also contains the tombs of Saint John Ogilvie and Charles Macintosh.

About Saint John Ogilvie:

Raised as a Calvinist, John Ogilvie’s father sent him to the continent to be educated. Once there, he became exposed to many Catholic scholars and learned about the history of the Church and its many martyrs.

He decided to become Catholic and was received into the Church at Louvain, Belgium, in 1596 at the age of 17.

John continued his studies, first with the Benedictines, then as a student at the Jesuit College at Olmutz. He joined the Jesuits and for the next 10 years underwent their rigorous intellectual and spiritual training. At his ordination to the priesthood in France in 1610, John met two Jesuits who had just returned from Scotland after suffering arrest and imprisonment. They saw little hope for any successful work there in view of the tightening of the penal laws.

Sent by his superiors, he secretly entered Scotland posing as a horse trader or a soldier returning from the wars in Europe. Unable to do significant work among the relatively few Catholics in Scotland, John made his way back to Paris to consult his superiors, but was rebuked for having left his assignment in Scotland and sent back. Upon his return to Scotland he enthusiastically worked on the the task of both serving the few Scottish Catholics as well as making converts. him and had some success in making converts But he was soon betrayed, arrested, and brought before the court.

He was imprisoned and deprived of sleep. For eight days and nights he was dragged around, prodded with sharp sticks, his hair pulled out. Still, he refused to reveal the names of Catholics or to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the king in spiritual affairs. He underwent a second and third trial but held firm.

Condemned to death as a traitor, he was faithful to the end, even when on the scaffold he was offered his freedom financial rewards if he would deny his faith. His courage in prison and in his martyrdom was reported throughout Scotland.

John Ogilvie was martyred on March 10, 1615.

At his final trial, he assured his judges: “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him. But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”

A similar statement was made by Saint Thomas More some 20 years later at his execution in 1635: “I die the king’s faithful servant, and God’s first“.

John Ogilvie was canonized in 1976, becoming the first Scottish saint since 1250. The Feast of Saint John Ogilvie is celebrated on March 10.

Visiting the Glasgow Cathedral:

Address:  Cathedral Precinct, Castle Street, Glasgow, G4 0QZ

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