St Mungo, also known by the less familiar name Kentigern, was a bishop and evangelist of Strathclyde. His early teacher, Serf, may have been responsible for giving Kentigern his popular monniker of Mungo, which means 'dear one'.
Legends abound about his life. Some believe he was the illegitimate son of royalty, perhaps the grandson of Urien. Ruins of a chapel near outside Culross mark the spot where his mother, Thenew, may have been cast ashore and where she gave birth to Mungo. Alternatively, some think Mungo and his mother had been set adrift in the Forth and landed safely in the Christian community at Fife.
Tradition suggests that Serf at Culross educated Mungo; Irish religious thought and practice grounded his religious training. Indeed, Mungo apparently had contact with the bishop Columba of Iona near the end of that saint's life. An early story about Mungo is that he restored life to Serf's pet robin, who had been maliciously killed by some young hooligans. Right: statue of Saint Mungo in the church
He arrived in Glasgow around 540 and was consecrated Bishop of Strathclyde by an Irish bishop. Glasgow's Cathedral along the Molendinar Burn is the fourth to be built on the site of Mungo's seventh century wooden church.
Mungo did not, according to tradition, select the church's site himself. Rather, he found St Fergus dying by the roadside and placed him gently in an oxcart. Mungo instructed the oxen to take the cart wherever God wante, and the oxen stopped at a place blessed by St Ninian about 200 years before. Mungo buried Fergus there and built the church at the site, as well.
Visitors may notice that Glasgow's coat of arms includes a fish and a ring, as well as the bird described above. The fish and ring refer to a story in which St Mungo helps a queen, Languoureth, distressed by having lost her husband's ring. Perhaps the queen had given the ring to a lover; perhaps the angry king retrieved his jewelry while the errant knight slept. The King tossed it into the river Clyde and taunted his wife to find it in three days (or, variously, to wear it at dinner that evening). Mungo comforted the distraught woman and sent a monk to fish the river. A salmon was caught and, somehow, the salmon had the ring in its mouth. The banqueting room in Glasgow's City Chambers displays a painting by Alexander Roche about the story.
The story's improbability leads some to doubt its historicity. At the very least, its tenacious association with St Mungo hints at his role as trusted advisor and confidant for leaders of the day. Modern monarchs might wish for someone as discreetly effective as Mungo. Right: Glasgow Cathedral
Indisputably, a sermon by St Mungo provided Glasgow's motto: Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word. When a lawyer designed the city's coat of arms in 1868, the motto was truncated to its first three words, as perhaps befits the secular aspirations of trade and industry.
Mungo, the 'dear one', carried out his work of preaching the word for a relatively long time; some information suggests that he died in the first decade of the seventh century in his 80s.Feast: 13 January