Posted by: christinelaennec | October 25, 2014

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art, Glasgow

Last month I had the chance to visit the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art for the first time.  I really enjoyed it.  Most of my photos are of the exhibition on the first floor, as the other exhibitions were difficult to take photos of.  But let me share as much as I can of what I found there.

The first floor is dedicated to religious art, from all religions.  I loved the stained glass.  And as you may know, I also particularly love roses.  This panel came from St. Ninian Wynd church in Glasgow:

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Stained glass panel from St. Ninian’s Wynd Church, Glasgow.  In St. Mungo Museum, Glasgow.

The rose appears frequently in the Bible, and the verse accompanying this panel was Isaiah 35:  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

Here is a large stained-glass panel, designed by Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-Raphaelite painter:

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Stained-glass panel from Woodlands Parish Church, Glasgow.  Designed by Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by William Morris & Co, in 1882.

Here is a piece of contemporary Islamic art, “The Attributes of Divine Perfection” by Ahmed Moustafa.

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“The Attributes of Divine Perfection,” a modern calligraphic work by Ahmed Moustafa

The exhibition notes say that the calligraphy on the cubes shows the 99 divine attributes of God.  This piece of art is far more challenging for me to appreciate than, for example, the stained glass windows, which are comfortingly familiar.  It’s good to be challenged!

The painting below shows a Jewish family at home in London.  It is the work of Dora Holzhandler, born 1928, who according to the exhibition notes is still living and painting in London.  The title of the painting is “The Sabbath Candles”.  The scene reminds me of our own family traditions, even though our Sabbath is not Friday but Sunday.

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“The Sabbath Candles,” by Dora Holzhandler.

Here is a statue of Shiva, the Hindu god:

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“Shiva as Nataraja”

Shiva as Nataraja is the god who creates and destroys all things.  The statue is over 250 years old.  I believe he is dancing on the “demon of ignorance” and is within a circle of flames as he is about to destroy, so that new things can be created.

My favourite work of art in this part of the museum was this piece:

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“Kangaroo Wild Cabbage, Ceremonial Spear, Possum and Bush Carrot Dreaming,1992” by Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, Bessie Nakamarra Sims and Pansy Nakamarra Stewart, Warlpiri people Yuendumu.

The exhibition notes state:  “Unlike the creation stories of the Qu’ran or Bible, there is not one Dreaming that everyone knows.  Clan groups are custodians for the Dreamings of their particular area, and it is against aboriginal law to represent another group’s Dreaming without permission.”  What a fascinating take on spiritual reality, or reality full stop (I would argue reality is spiritual, but…).  Given how unique every person’s perspective and thinking is, doesn’t it make greater sense than expecting people to adopt one story, whose meaning they will go on to debate, interpret, or you might say recreate?

I wish I knew much more than I do about the beliefs of the Aboriginal people of Australia.  Perhaps some of you can recommend a good book on the topic.  I haven’t yet read Bruce Chatwin, and seem to recall there was some debate about his book(s).

The floor above the exhibition of Religious Art is an exhibition of the major religions of the world.  I was really interested, for example, to see statues of the Buddha as a child playing!  And the top floor is an exhibition of religion in Scotland, going back to pre-Christian times.  I learned a few things, and enjoyed all of it.

The view from the second floor is really something.  You look over to Glasgow Cathedral (which, controversially, has just begun to charge an entrance fee!) and to the Glasgow Necropolis:

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View to Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis from St. Mungo Museum

There is a cafe on the ground floor, looking out onto a Zen garden.  I sat under the archway and ate my packed lunch, enjoying the view, especially the lamp-posts that have the four elements of Glasgow’s coat of arms (bird, tree, bell, fish).  The Glasgow coat of arms, if you’re interested, is a story for another post!

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The Zen garden at St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art, Glasgow

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little visit, and that you’re having a very good weekend.  Tonight our clocks go back, so we will have a bit more light in the mornings, but it will be dark by 5:30, and get darker earlier and earlier after that.  But it’s less than two months until the longest night and then not long til Christmas!

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Responses

  1. Oh my what a beautiful pictures. I just love those stained glas pictures !!

  2. Oh how this makes me miss Glasgow! My classmates and I spent a lot of time here, escaping our uni which was just across the road. You’ve captured it beautifully!xo

  3. I was so impressed with the stained glass windows, beautiful.

  4. Lovely, Christine. I particularly like the painting, “The Sabbath Candles”.

  5. Christine, I not only appreciated your thought provoking narrative and photos, but also the links you posted. In fact, one link linked to another and before I knew it I was listening to the cathedral organist play the amazing pipe organ and then with effort I was resisting buying the Christmas CD! 🙂

  6. What a beautiful place, Christine. I would love to sit next to the girl in the photo and read a good book.

    Thank you for exposing us to this fascinating artwork – and for sharing your thoughts, as well. xo

  7. I have to confess that I had never heard of St Mungo before. Your post stimulated me to do some searching which revealed just how little I had known about Glasgow! But despite having an ancestral connection I can perhaps be forgiven for that lapse, having never been to Scotland, let alone Glasgow. Forgiveness should not be so readily forthcoming, however, for my appalling ignorance of indigenous religion in my own country. I’ll have to look to American-Scots and other similarly distant people to teach me more of what I should already know!

  8. I love visiting places with you, Christine! I don’t know when I’ll be back in the UK, but Glasgow is on my list of places I must visit then.

  9. A beautiful post, Christine- I really enjoyed visiting this museum with you! The stained glass windows are what I love the most – they have always seemed so alive and magical to me. The Pre-Raphaelites are some of my favorite artists and works. The views out the windows are so beautiful, too. We haven’t turned our clocks yet, but will be following you this coming Sunday. This year has gone by so fast! Enjoy your week. xo Karen

  10. Yes, please, tell the story of the Glasgow coat of arms.

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments! I’m glad you enjoyed this little visit, and especially the stained glass. I love stained glass too. Karen, what you say about it being “alive and magical” is very true!

    Laura – I can well understand how St. Mungo Museum would have been an excellent retreat for you!

    Martin – There’s a purity about “The Sabbath Candles” isn’t there?

    Gracie – how funny! Did you resist ordering the Christmas CD? I didn’t realise there was such a thing. The internet is amazing sometimes.

    Stacy – I would love to go back and spend some time on that bench myself.

    oldblack – I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself regarding aboriginal beliefs, it does seem to be something that is rather difficult to find out about! Do let me know if you find some good sources.

    Constance – will do!

  12. Would love to have been on this tour with you! The stained glass is beautiful as well as the other art. Thanks for sharing it with us…


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