Glasgow Cathedral's Hebrew Inscriptions – Glasgow, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
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Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow Cathedral's Hebrew Inscriptions

In the depths of Glasgow Cathedral's crypt, one pillar stands out from all others.  

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The patron saint of Glasgow, St. Mungo, was buried in the crypt sometime during the 7th Century. The current structure was established between the 12th & early 14th centuries. It’s believed that the inscriptions predate the 1900s, as the first person to be buried in the nearby Necropolis Cemetery was of Jewish descent. A jeweler by the name of Joseph Levi who was laid to rest in 1833. There have been tales that tell of a group Judaic mourners who were given shelter in the Cathedral during a storm, thus giving the author time to carve the inscriptions.

The Hebrew inscriptions have yet to be properly translated. There are a total of eight lines consisting of at least two or three words each, in rhyming couplets. It has been speculated that it is a form of prayer being offered up to either to St. Mungo or a hymn to a deceased member of the author’s community.  As the author is unknown, experts have been able to decipher that they were not fluent in Hebrew, or quite possibly using an older version of the language. For now, the meaning and purpose of the etchings remain a mystery. 

Know Before You Go

Glasgow Cathedral is a functioning house of worship, so check the website for any events that may prevent access to the crypts. The church is free to enter, though the hours vary from April to September (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ) and October to March (10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). Access to the crypt, also known as the Lower Church, closes 15 minutes prior. On Sundays the doors do not open until after 1 p.m. The church also gives guided tours that last for about an hour. 

To find the pillar, head to the main body of the church and veer to the left. There will be a staircase that takes you down into the crypt. Using the banisters as a guide, stop after the second set and approach the pillar to your left. As the lighting is limited, it may be difficult to spot, but with a bit of persistence, the lines of engravings can be found. Light from a mobile phone or asking one of the helpful docents will assist you in locating them.

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