Glasgow III – Glasgow Cathedral, Provand’s Lordship, and the Antonine Wall

We’ll finish with Glasgow by showcasing the really old.  The Glasgow Cathedral and nearby Provand’s Lordship are among the very few surviving buildings from Glasgow’s medieval period.  The Cathedral is the oldest building; Provand’s Lordship is the oldest house.  And the Antonine Wall?  Never heard of it?  We hadn’t either; it was the real northernmost wall (at least for awhile) that separated Roman Britain from those pesky Scots.


The Glasgow Cathedral is a superb example of Scottish Gothic architecture, and the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland.  The first picture below shows the Cathedral as it looked in 1820 (from a watercolor, “The Saving of the Cathedral”); the following picture shows how it looks today (the front towers seen in the watercolor were

demolished in 1840 as part of a grand restoration scheme that was never completed).

The history of the Cathedral begins with the construction of a small wooden church around 550 AD when St. Mungo started a religious community.  That structure was replaced by a stone church which was subsequently badly damaged by fire in 1136.  The walls of the nave in today’s church, up to the windows, are from the rebuilding that took place in the early 1200’s; the rest of the Cathedral was built in the mid 1200’s.  The Cathedral survived the Protestant Reformation relatively unscathed (as depicted in the first picture) not because the reforming mobs of 1560 were less zealous in Glasgow but because the organized trades of the city took up arms to protect it, the defenders outnumbering the attackers.  The title “cathedral” is now historic, dating from the period before the Scottish Reformation.

The cathedral interior is impressive, with a roof made mostly of wood.

Below are more views of the interior.

The many ceiling bosses of carved wood are all different, beautifully done, and colorful (and difficult to get in focus), as shown below.

There are lots of interesting carvings in nooks and crannies throughout the cathedral (see below).

Another fascinating feature is the lower church beneath the Cathedral.  The land on which the Cathedral was built slopes, which allowed a lower church containing a crypt to be built beneath the choir; the crypt contains the tomb of St. Mungo.  It’s a large area, and

beautiful in a very different way than the soaring upper Cathedral.  The stone bosses are also pretty cool, each one different.

Finally, there’s the beautiful Blackadder Aisle, built around 1500 on the site of  St Mungo’s original church and designed to be part of a transept that was never completed (it’s hard to tell from the introductory pictures, but the cathedral has no true transepts).  The beautiful,

stately, arching white ceiling is highlighted at intersections with very interesting and brightly painted carved stone bosses.


Provand's Lordship, near the Glasgow CathedralThis house, the oldest in Glasgow, was built by (and near) the Glasgow Cathedral in 1471.  It likely reflects “the lifestyles of the rich and famous” for that time.  It was originally the home of one of the 32 canons who managed a part of the Cathedral’s vast diocese – in this case the land at Provan (the other 31 canons were similarly housed).  By the 1600’s it had become a private home; by the 1700’s, and for the next 200 years, it was used as an inn, with rooms on the upper floors and a wide range of shops on the ground floor.  A small extension housed the city’s hangman.  It’s a pretty cool place, all stone with massive, rough-hewn, low-hanging beams and fireplaces everywhere.  The entrance opens into the

kitchen – where it’s very obvious that cooking was not a big production!  And of course a

dining room.  The rooms upstairs are old-time, rustic gorgeous.  The room shown below belonged to a canon from 1501 – 1513; he was both a priest and a lawyer.  The room would have served as a living room, bedroom and office.

Other rooms are shown below.

Provand’s Lordship houses one of Scotland’s best collections of furniture from the 1600’s. The chairs below are examples.

Provand’s Lordship also had medieval stained glass windows (now obtained from elsewhere).  The windows below were from England in the 1600’s and commemorate marriages between notable families.

The window below shows 3 saints: St. Nicholas, St. Paul and St. Peter.  It was made in the Netherlands in the 1500’s; the trefoil and 2 quarterfoil panels at the top are from England, made in the 1300’s.

The windows below are from the 1300’s.  The left window has panels depicting an angel, St. John the Baptist (from France) and an unidentified female saint (from England).  The second window depicts an unidentified male saint (from England).  Strangely, there were no stained glass windows from Scotland.



What?  Never heard of it?  Interesting how history does that to us.  Yet you’ve heard of Hadrian’s Wall, right?  That northern-most demarcation of Rome keeping those pesky Scots at bay?  Actually, that northern-most border was the Antonine Wall.

We discovered the little-publicized Antonine Wall when we visited a museum at the University of Glasgow; it’s a gorgeous university, as shown below.

Just for review, as noted in our Hadrian’s Wall post (Hadrian’s Wall), that wall was built in 122 AD; it was 73 miles long, went from coast to coast, and was built 15 – 20 feet tall from quarried stone (in the middle of nowhere), with 80 stone forts along its length.  Probably as a result of continued attacks from Location of Antonine Wallthe unconquered north, in AD 142 Hadrian’s successor Emperor Antoninus Pius ordered a new wall built about 70 miles further north of the existing wall.  Again these clever Romans somehow knew where the shortest distance would be, and the wall was built from the river Clyde just above present-day Glasgow to the Firth of Forth just west of present-day Edinburgh.  The wall was 39 miles long, about 13 feet high, and 16 feet wide; it took 12 years to complete.  It was built of turf and earth on a stone foundation.  Like Hadrian’s Wall it had a deep ditch on the north side and a military road on the south.  A wooden palisade is thought to have been on top.  It was protected by 17 forts with about 10The Antonine Wall and forts “fortlets”, very likely on (Roman) mile spacings.  In spite of the effort it took to build the wall, it was abandoned only 8 years after completion (162 AD), the garrisons being relocated back to Hadrian’s Wall.  Following a series of attacks in 197 AD, the emperor Septimius Severus arrived in Scotland in 208 to secure the frontier.  He ordered repairs and re-established legions at Antonine’s Wall (after which the wall also became known as the Severan Wall).  Only a few years later the wall was  abandoned for the second time and never fortified again.

Apparently the ruins are not much to see; the turf and wood wall have largely weathered away.  Still, the various legions that built the wall commemorated their finished construction and their victorious struggles with the natives (called the Caledonians) in decorative local limestone slabs, called “Distance Slabs”.  The slabs were set into stone frames along the length of the wall.  Dedicated to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, they identify the legion, the length of the wall they built, and with symbolic imagery they depict the might of the Roman army and the native population in defeat.  In the largest known slab (shown below), the inscription reads: “For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country, the Second Augustan Legion built this over a distance of 4652 paces.”

Other examples are shown below.

A number of stone statuary items from the bath houses and fort buildings attest to the Romans’ love of art even at their furthest outposts.

Other artifacts like coins and leather shoes were of course also plentiful.

That’s enough on Glasgow!  Next post is a change of pace, on England’s Lake District.


Glasgow II – Art Museums

Glasgow has 2 fabulous art museums, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery (and Museum) and the Burrell Collection from a wealthy shipping baron.


As you can see from the pictures below, the Kelvingrove is big!  To the point of overwhelming.  We spent a couple of days there.

The grand 100-yr-old Spanish Baroque building is sort of a condensed version of our Smithsonian.  It has a Spitfire fighter plane hanging from the ceiling, stuffed animals (elephants, giraffe, kangaroo, moose), the Mackintosh exhibits we showed in the last post, exhibits from ancient Egypt, “Scotland’s First Peoples”,  etc.  I’m going to show some of its amazing artwork, starting with Impressionists.  Below are different treatments of still life – it’s always fun to compare!  The first picture (alas, slightly out-of-focus – all of the lighting was really dim!) is by Francois Bonvin, a mostly self-taught French painter with whom I was unfamiliar.  The rest are by artists we all know.

Discovering a “new” (to us) artist whose work we enjoy is always a special treat, and the Kelvingrove held several nice surprises hidden among the “masters”; maybe we should know these artists, but don’t?  Henri Le Sidaner, Othon Friesz, Armand Guillaumin?    Pictures of some of the paintings are shown below, pretty much arranged chronologically.

Another day and a change of pace – Flemish and Dutch Masters.  What a treat!  Below is a collaboration between Rubens and Brueghel (Rubens, of course, did the nudes).

Although we really like this period of art, we haven’t been very good students; there are a lot of painters here that we aren’t familiar with – like Pickenoy, below.

Another unfamiliar artist was the landscape painter Jan van Goyen; he was very poor, but became very influential.  In order to sell his paintings cheaply, he painted thinly and quickly with a limited palette of inexpensive pigments, sometimes churning out a painting a day.  His limited tonal range ended up being widely copied.  Impressive!

Yet another artist new to us was Jacob van Es.  Not much is known about this guy, but his paintings were in many collections of the times – Rubens owned two of his paintings.

OK, time for somebody we do know!  Rembrandt’s painting of his wife, pregnant with their first child, is shown below.  She’s dressed as Flora, Roman Goddess of flowers.  It’s fabulous.

Two other artists we weren’t familiar with are Egbert van der Poel and Willem Kalf; their paintings are shown below.  That last picture is by David Teniers the Younger; we didn’t know him either, but apparently he was considered one of the greatest painters in Europe

in his day, and hundreds of his pictures are in the museums of major cities.  Live and learn!

We discovered Rachel Ruysch earlier in our travels, and we consistently find her work in major cities.  She’s the daughter of a botanist (who had an insect collection and was, himself, an amateur painter); the rest, as they say, is history.  She was selling her still-life

paintings at the age of 18, and enjoyed great fame and reputation in her lifetime.

The last picture we’ll show from the Kelvingrove is one they’re very proud of.  Spoiler alert, it’s a bit more modern than the ones I’ve been showing you!  I’m sure you’re familiar with

it.  It’s a big painting, and very impressive.


Sir William Burrell was a Glaswegian shipping magnate who collected every conceivable form of art – including fireplaces and doorways.  The collection is incredible; the stunning amount of beauty would put most museums to shame, and it was hard to decide what to photograph.  The collection includes medieval The Warwick Vase, 100-200 AD, found in Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli; reconstructedart (stained glass, tapestries), Egyptian, Islamic and Chinese art, French Impressionist paintings, sculpture, armor, architecture, furniture….  Be prepared for ecclectic!  So where to start, eh?  How about this vase, found in Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, from 100-200 AD (restoration in the 1700’s).  Fill it with wine and take a bath?

Next let’s visit one of my addictions, stained glass.  The Burrell Collection has over 700

medieval stained glass panels from across Europe, one of the greatest collections in the 3 panels from a French cathedral, ~1280world.  The 3 panels shown on the left came from a French cathedral from about 1280 (!), showing a wedding party in the center, with kitchen scenes above and below that referenced the trade guild that paid for the window.  The only paint on the glass is a brown metal oxide that defines the faces, hair and folds of the clothes.  The individual pieces of colored glass are small, and therefore the many lead canes holding them together made the panels strong.  There are few restorations, and the window looks almost exactly like it did 750 years ago.

Below are a few more really old panels.

The panels that follow are still from the 1400’s, although the late 1400’s.  In the first picture below, the floor pattern and the L-shaped table create good perspective.  Details of

the faces, clothes and food were added using metal oxide paint.  The yellow hair and musical instruments were painted on the glass using silver stain.  Below are a few more glass panels, from the early 1500’s.

We’ll end this medieval glass section with 3 (composite) windows.

We’re switching now to tapestries, and then embroidered clothes.  The pictures below are just two of many very impressive tapestries.   Both are wool and silk.  Gorgeous, aren’t they?

The early 1600’s were a period of peace and prosperity in Britain, and a time when aristocrats used clothing to flaunt their wealth.  Linen and silk garments were richly decorated with silk, silver, and gold threads – as you can see below.

The last set of pictures shows a “petticoat”.  It’s a lot of cloth, as you’ll notice below!  Then

again, dress fashion in the 1600’s was designed to display a lot of cloth.  The museum states that the prominent placing of thistles (Scottish emblem) at the top of the embroidered border suggests it was created for the wife of King James VI (of Scotland; alias James I of Great Britain – see previous post “Stirling Castle” for James’ history).

As mentioned earlier, there are fireplaces and doorways in the collection ….

There’s Burrell’s dining room, where the walls are carved wood.

Statues of course – here are some bronzes from Rodin –

And the pottery!  It was fabulous stuff.  I’ll just show a bit of old Chinese pottery (and some carved jade), shown below.

The pottery below is porcelain from China’s Qing Dynasty, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722) – with the exception of the last item that’s carved ivory.

There were of course the high-tech weapons of the middle ages ….

And now the paintings!  Oh my!  What a collection!  There are over 600 paintings in the Burrell collection.  Considering the length of this post, you’ll be relieved to know I won’t show them all.  The paintings from earlier centuries are sometimes from a famous painter’s workshop rather than from the artist himself, as illustrated by the first painting below.  Many others are from the masters themselves; the Bellini (!) is exquisite, as is the painting by Giovanni Battista Moroni, one of the great portrait painters (Italian) in the

Late Renaissance period.  I’ve separated out paintings from my favorite period, the masters of the 1600’s, shown below.

One of the strengths of this collection is French Impression painters, one of our favorite periods.  Some examples below.


We’ll finish this oh-so-long post with paintings by Degas.  The Burrell has one of the finest Degas collections in Europe, with 22 paintings, pastels and drawings.  The pictures below are of his dancers, all but the first being pastels – and that picture is one of Degas’ first paintings of the ballet.

Well, we generally exhaust the patience of anyone who accompanies us to a museum.  If any of you have made it aaall the way through this post, our congratulations!

The next post (and last on Glasgow) is on Glasgow’s churches.

Glasgow I, The City

Glasgow lives in the shadow of its royal, history-ladened neighbor, Edinburgh (post Edinburgh II).  However, we liked Glasgow better, for several reasons:

  • Glasgow is a “real”city –  it’s not a big tourist destination, so you won’t find costumed sales folk hawking tours, and souvenir shops on every corner.
  • the architecture is fascinating – Victorian, playful facades, visionary Art Nouveau, and modern riffs off the latter.
  • There’s a lot of the incredible art and architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his  less-well-known wife, Margaret MacDonald.
  • And the museums aren’t bad either!

Let’s begin with some pictures of the streets and buildings of this interesting city.  Glasgow is a port city;  in its heyday (1800’s) it was a wealthy industrial powerhouse and Europe’s 6th biggest city.  Going into the 1900’s, while the rest of the UK was enthralled with Victorianism, working-class Glasgow veered into the modern, incorporating aspects of Minimalism, Art Nouveau, and even some Asian influence.  Today it’s an intriguing city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  For example, look at the neoclassical Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art in the first picture below, with its Grecian columns; notice that the

equestrian statue (far left) sports a guy wearing an orange road hazard cone, and that the building’s mirrored mosaic is anything but neoclassical!  Or how about this building with the funky ironwork, from Glasgow’s days of iron forges?  Here, Glaswegians call sanded and polished concrete “Glasgow marble”.  There’s a lot of quirk and fun here.  More of the city is shown below.  OK, “more” is a lot of pictures, but then again the city is fascinating!

Even better, most of these buildings are covered with very artsy detail.  It pays to look up as you walk – a bit hazardous, but worth it; as shown below, the building facades are full of sculptures and friezes.

The people have fun too – one often encounters parties, sometimes bizarre, going on.

Not to mention, of course, the pervasive and wonderful Scotch bars!

It’s time for a little (a very little) art history.  In the late 1800’s a backlash against industrialization led to the “Arts and Crafts” movement, featuring hand-made objects with simple designs from nature.  With the new century approaching there was a creative energy for new styles for the new age.  In painting, one expression of new style was Impressionism.  In the design world the new style was “Art Nouveau”, which extended the Arts and Crafts emphasis on nature, incorporating  female figures and embracing modern manufacturing technologies to create flowing, linear, and abstract forms.

In Glasgow during this time, the Glasgow School of Art became one of the most successful art schools in the UK, with one of its students, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, winning many awards.  Staff and students developed their own approach to Art Nouveau, known as the “Glasgow Style”, that incorporated stylized, linear motifs based on nature.  A decade after Mackintosh graduated he was given a commission to build a new home for the Glasgow School of Art, with the freedom to design every detail.  It’s a pinnacle of artistic and architectural achievement.  A model is shown in the first picture below; well, I was

underwhelmed at first look, but this is a 1909 building, remember, and much here is actually new for the times.  The over-riding theme is ‘letting in the light’.  As you can see in the picture on the right, there are protruding iron arms at the base of the multi-paned windows with stylized roses at their ends (a Mackintosh trademark).  The arms were a new invention that reinforced those very large, fragile glass windows and allowed natural light to pour into the studios.  Throughout the building the lines are Modernist, with Asian

influences and Art Nouveau flourishes; examples shown above.  Alas, it’s a working school, without free access; the pictures above are pictures of pictures.  I can, however, show you tea rooms that Mackintosh designed.

When in 1875 a tea dealer placed table and chair in his shop and sold cups of freshly brewed tea, the tea room was born.  The idea quickly caught on.  Many city-center buildings were converted to tea rooms for meeting, relaxing and doing business – and they were a much better option than a bar for unescorted women.  The face of Glasgow tea rooms was Miss Cranston, who owned 4 of the largest; she favored modern design and unique decoration.  In 1896 Mackintosh was asked to design murals for one of her tea rooms, and his daring designs became a public talking point.  From 1900 on he was the sole designer of every aspect of her tea rooms.  1900 also marked Charles Mackintosh’s marriage to Margaret Macdonald, another graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, and together they collaborated on interior designs and artwork.  The pictures below are from

the “Ladies’ Luncheon Room” that Charles designed in 1900 (now in a museum); pay particular attention to the decorative panel that he did with Margaret (mostly Margaret’s style).  I think it’s fascinating – made with oil-painted gesso plaster on burlap and scrim, twine, glass beads, thread, mother-of-pearl & tin leaf.  There is more art that came from the tea room, of course; the related panel shown below, and beaten tin panels shown


just above.  In “The Dew”, the first picture above, Margaret drew the women’s hair, clothes and plant forms as one continuous looped line, broken only by small cascading circles and droplets – the title’s “Dew”.  Nice.

Mackintosh's Willow Tea Rooms, todayOur final look at a Mackintosh tea room is “The Willow TeaRooms and Gift Shop”.  These rooms are not in a museum – they constitute a 1903 Mackintosh building that is still serving food and tea to the public.  Below are pictures of these rooms as they looked in 1905;

and here is how those first two rooms above – the Front (ladies’) and Back (men’s) rooms – look today.

That last archival picture from 1905 (3rd picture, above) shows the “Room de Luxe” that overlooked the street below; it was the more extravagant and exclusive ladies’ room – a “fantasy for afternoon tea”.  Below is how it looks today; the chairs are reproductions, but

the decoration is original.  It really is exquisite – I don’t think I captured it so well – but it is missing at least one of its artistic highlights, one of Margaret Mackintosh’s more famous works, a gesso panel inspired by a sonnet (Rossetti’s O Ye, all ye that walk in Willow Wood).  It’s currently in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery that we’ll visit in the next post, but I’ll include it here where it belongs.  I think it’s gorgeous.  The story of Willowwood

is as follows:  A man sits by a well in Willowwood.  As he looks into the green waters, his reflection changes into that of his dead beloved.  As his beloved’s gray image fades, he scoops at the water with his hand to drink and grieves over his loss.

One last topic – the Tenement House.  Urban working-class Glaswegians lived in tenements, multi-storied flats often consisting of just 2 rooms and a shared outhouse. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that landlords were finally required by law to supply water to the houses.  The Tenement House was built in 1892 and was designed for the slightly better-off, with 4 rooms and the added luxury of its own toilet.  In 1911 a Miss Townsend

and her mother moved in, and for 64 years she changed nothing.  When Miss Townsend died, a relative came to collect a set of chairs from the will, and “felt like Pip on witnessing the room of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations“.  Ultimately the National Trust of Scotland bought this otherwise ordinary row home as a time-warp display of life back then.  Alas, photos were not allowed; these pictures come from their booklet.

Heating and cooking were done with coal, and the all-purpose kitchen shared laundry duties – notice the wringer on the sink in the first picture below.   Clothes were

dried overhead in this, the warmest room.  Ironing was done on the kitchen table using the flatirons heated on the range, as shown above.  Larger laundry loads were washed in the communal wash house outside.

That’s enough for now, don’t you think?  Next post: Glasgow II, Kelvingrove Art Gallery.