Examining Religion at Glasgow’s St Mungo Museum

Named in honor of the patron saint of Glasgow, the St Mungo Museum is housed in a Scottish baronial style building which was built in 1989 by Ian Begg. The majestic stone and mortar structure was designed in keeping with the architecture of the ancient Bishops’ Castle which once stood on the site, blending with historical buildings in the area. While the museum is named for the man who brought Christianity to Scotland in the 6th century, it is dedicated to religion in its various forms, as practiced around the world, and in different time frames. Located across from the oldest house in Glasgow, the Provand’s Lordship, and next to the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, the St Mungo Museum is a worthwhile addition to an itinerary when exploring the largest city in Scotland.

There are three galleries of permanent displays at the museum where works of art and religious objects are used to explore some of the major religions of the world, as well as the role religion has played in the history of Glasgow. The Gallery of Religious Art features skillfully crafted Christian-themed stained glass windows, and among the more unusual and attention-grabbing displays are a large bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva Nataraj – the Lord of the Dance – as well as the Dancing Skeleton used in Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Gallery of Religious Life has detailed displays explaining religious rituals associated with life events, such as birth, attaining adulthood, marriage, healing and death. Here visitors can view an Egyptian mummy, a Scottish Christening gown, Hindu bridal attire and a Nigerian carved figurine for healing. Other items on display include clothing and accessories associated with religious leaders, divine rulers and others who have devoted their lives to their religious beliefs.

In addition to permanent displays and the carefully crafted Zen garden, the St Mungo Museum has a program of temporary exhibits and events throughout the year. Starting 8 July 2014 and continuing until 7 April 2015, the museum is hosting a photographic exhibition entitled “In Honour’s Cause, Glasgow’s WWI Memorials”. The exhibition marks the centenary of the beginning of World War I, a devastating conflict that came to be known as the “Great War” and that changed the world forever. By the time the war ended in 1919 over 900,000 British soldiers had sacrificed their lives, with more than 18,000 of them coming from Glasgow. The exhibition at the St Mungo Museum displays the city’s well-known memorials, along with lesser known tributes to Glaswegians whose lives were cut short by war.