My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Glasgow Cathedral & Necropolis: A Very Gothic Lolita Meet

Graves through the trees, last
 time I visited. Click to expand
Last month I went down to Glasgow for a meet-up I was very excited about - a visit to the Cathedral and the Necropolis. It was organised by the moderator of the Scottish Lolitas group on FaceBook. Originally it was supposed to be for a guided tour on the Saturday, but it was re-arranged for the Sunday, which means we didn't get a guided a tour, but we were there for choral evensong rehearsals! I've been to Glasgow Necropolis before, once a few years back (when I had no idea how to style my wigs, or what boots suit what outfits... so I won't link back to that one!)
Getting to Glasgow from Inverness is a good 3+ hrs on the coach from Inverness, and I don't even live in Inverness itself, so I had to travel to the city first, and Lolita is not the most practical style of clothing for travel! For the most part, I kept my impractically high heels for photographs, and switched to ugly but comfortable trainers (more about how this didn't work out later on). The weather was really quite bright, and I started doubting my choice of an all-black ensemble to wear! It had been cloudy and overcast in the Highlands, but the weather got warmer and sunnier as I travelled south to the central belt.

I made some attempts to get a few photographs of the stunning Scottish scenery taken out of the window. I really like looking out of the window on long coach and train journeys, but I always end up wishing I could stop off at all of the interesting places and explore - one of  the downsides of not being able to drive is I can't go off on my own detours!

A rather tall and craggy hill, not entirely sure where

One place I'd love to go on a detour to explore is Ruthven Barracks - I managed to get one moderately clear shot of the Ruthven Barracks out of the coach window. It used to be the site of a castle (presumably Castle Ruthven?) but due to the Jacobite Uprising, the Hanoverian government built an imposing barracks over the site to station troops. It was part of a rather bloody section of Highland history. 

Ruthven Barracks from the road, photo out of a coach window.

I did my make-up partly on the coach - probably not the smartest idea, but I don't think it worked out too badly. Trying to do my lipstick was the hardest bit, so I waited for the change at Perth, so the coach would be stationary, to do that bit. 

Black hair with blue highlights now! Veil to hide scruffy bits.
I met up with the other Lolitas at the Tempo tea shop, for some bubble tea, and then we walked up to the cathedral. I didn't realise how far the cathedral was from the tea-shop, and made the mistake of changing into my high heels at the tea-shop, and struggling to keep up with the group as I'm a) not supposed to walk in high heels because of my ankle injury, b) not exactly steady on high heels anyway because I'm dyspraxic and clumsy and c) it was roasting outdoors and I was overheating in my clothes. Now I know that there's a steep hill up to the cathedral, I won't be doing that again! I put my trainers back on to wander around the cathedral, because it is uneven paving and there are lots of stepped sections, etc. 


The Lolita group outside the cathedral, photographed by Meshya.
I'm wearing comfortable but ugly trainers, but hiding them behind my bag!
The cathedral itself is really stunning. It's a medieval cathedral, but it still has an active congregation. It's the cathedral of St. Mungo, who is said to be buried there, known fully as St. Kentigern (He's Cynderyn in Welsh). 'Mungo' is actually an affectionate nickname with its derivation in an earlier British language (I've read conflicting articles as to which one), apparently meaning 'dear one'. St. Mungo/Kentigern is the patron saint of Glasgow. 

[Random Harry Potter musing aside: There's a large and rather old hospital (it was opened in the 1790's) near St. Mungo's Cathedral, currently with a rather grand and ornate stone building from 1914 dominating the local area - I do wonder if the combination of the two were the inspiration for St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical maladies, especially as J.K Rowling lives in Scotland, but in Edinburgh, not Glasgow.]

The cathedral does have a few stained glass windows, but much less than I expected. I don't actually know why, but if I had been on the guided tour, that would have been one of the questions that I would have asked. I noticed that a lot of the stained glass was stylistically 20thC and had a lot of beautiful greens, blues and purples, especially one which I think might be the Millennium Window (I didn't get a good photograph, unfortunately), and I'd guess made in the late 1990s to celebrate the then-upcoming turn of the millennium. The cathedral was spared much of the more destructive aspects of the reformation because the local population stepped in to defend it, but maybe the windows were still smashed? - I do not know. According to the unofficial cathedral ::website::, the decision to put in stained glass was made in 1856, but it doesn't say why there wasn't stained glass previous to that, when in most other medieval cathedrals, stained glass was introduced centuries before, often right from the start, and one of the benefits of the Gothic style is how the arrangement of space and fenestration work really well with stained glass (I wrote a mini-dissertation for one of my graded units on this sort of thing last year...). 

These windows included stained glass, but my camera blew it out too bright.
Another thing I noticed about the cathedral is that it has a relatively cohesive design overall, and doesn't look like the sort of cathedral built in a lot of disjunct Gothic/Gothic-related styles in many phases over many centuries (eg. Canterbury Cathedral), but more like it was built mostly to one design, even if there's different ceiling designs in the main nave and the choir. It has quite a harmonious and balanced building because of this - no mismatched towers (like the basilica-cathedral of St. Denis in Paris)  or Romanesque arches beside late Gothic tracery, no buckled columns (like Salisbury Cathedral) or much later additions in Baroque or other Neo-Classically derived styles mixed in, no awkward 20th or 21stC modern elements stuck on.

It's a very large and long building, and I don't think ALL of it was built at once, but it is remarkably united and singular building considering its age, and that it was built between 1136 and 1197, which is not as long as some cathedrals and basilicas, but still more than 60 years. It's on a straightforward linear floor-plan, with one extension off-centre rather than a cruciform transept, and these two (the Blackadder Crypt and its above ground chapel are aligned with the south transept, and the boiler wing is off centre) are the only bits that seem outside of the original design - the sacristy/chapter house while not part of the main hall-shape building, does seem like at least a very old addition, and maybe part of the original design, or of the original construction phases. I've seen a floor-plan, and been to the building, and these are my educated guesses on the history - it's not something I've really researched, nor did I get a chance to ask a guide. I've got to go back there, with a note-book, and get some more information!

Pews with fabulous Gothic arches and trefoil designs.
There's a lot of stunning carved wooden furniture in the cathedral - pews, choir stalls, and things that can't really be called 'furniture' like the organ loft and the great pipe-organ itself (which I was privileged to hear played!). The interior is impressively Gothic - I guess some of the wooden bits are Victorian-era, probably Gothic Revival, but I guess in a building like that, it's less of a revival, and more of a continuation of an ongoing tradition of ecclesiastical art and architecture.


Memorial with helm, shield and sword
There are a few graves and memorials within the cathedral itself, too. I tried to photograph many of them, but the photographs did not come out well. One that did, however, was  a grave with an effigy of the person's armour rather than the person themselves, complete with ornate helm and sword. Looking at the date, it was more symbolic of knightly things than something they would have worn in battle, as the grave is much later than the styling of the armour displayed, but it's still a rather beautifully rendered monument.

Vaulted ceilings and concentric details on the arches. Best ceiling photo.
I think the most stunning aspect of the cathedral, however, are the vaulted ceilings. These vaults are structural, not just aesthetic, and are based around intersecting Gothic arches. I took an awful lot of ceiling photographs, but it was quite hard to get good ones on just my phone - I don't have the old HTC with the 'potato camera' but my Samsung is an older model, and it struggles to get pictures that are crisp and aren't grainy (and slightly off-focus) in low light levels - at least with the standard camera app; I've downloaded Lightroom now, and I might be able to get better shots by having more control over the settings.

I took a LOT of ceiling pictures but most were terrible. This one was passable
I actually got separated from the rest of the group because I got distracted by taking photos of the ceiling. When I looked down, everyone was gone! A French tour guide said what I thought was "sur les arbres" so I went out to the trees by the entrance to look for the rest of the Lolita group, but they weren't there. In retrospect, I think she might have actually said "sur les arches" and I misheard because the Cathedral is echoey and it was quite busy in there, as they'd actually gone to the crypt - under the arches. One of the group found me, as apparently the French tour guide had run into the rest of the group, too, and told them where I was! After we were all reunited in the crypt, I changed into my high heels again for a photo by a grand candelabra.


Photograph by Meshya. Very tall candelabra.
As we left the crypt, the choir had got into full swing of their rehearsals. I'm not sure which choir it was - most of the choristers looked the usual student age, so I'm wondering if they were a university/conservatoire choir, and there was a TV crew setting up around them. They were absolutely amazing! It was Renaissance style polyphonic church music, but with the organ accompanying, and it was something really special. Hearing them was truly wonderful, and coming up out of the crypt to emerge into this sound, with the two big banks of organ pipes flanking on either side, it was something mesmerising.

Byzantine-looking mausoleum and many monuments,
photographed by me, from the bridge, on my previous visit to the Necropolis
After visiting the crypt, we concluded our visit to the cathedral, and crossed the bridge over the road, to the necropolis hill nearby. Glasgow Necropolis is somewhere I have visited before, but last time around, not many of my photographs came out, so this time I tried to take a few more. The last time I was there, the weather was hazy and dull, very overcast, and so my photographs were all very drear - I deliberately accentuated this with the use of black and white. Scotland is famous for its 'dreich' weather, but it can actually be brighter and quite sunny, so all the photographs from this trip to the necropolis are full colour with bright blue skies! I thought I'd share the ones from the last time, too, though, because I'm a cliché and I appreciate the gloomy aesthetic. 


Another of the previous photographs - grey skies and many monuments.
Neo-Classical mausoleum
Click to expand.
One of my favourite things about the necropolis is that it was functioning for so long that it's a snapshot of changing artistic and architectural movements, and a reflection of changing funereal practices, not to mention the people who were buried and the various circumstances that the choice of monument reflects - those who buried by their next of kin, those with monuments paid for by the members of institutions and societies to which the deceased belonged, those with grand mausoleums, those more simple headstones... A cemetery is a history book encoded in stone and landscaping. I think I could go to the Necropolis a good few times, and with each time, learn more.

The Necropolis is also somewhere I could spend a lot more than a mere hour,  especially with a camera. I really, really wish I had a camera that worked at the moment - my cheap 'point and click' camera died (it had death spasms, with the shutter and zoom mechanism suddenly going through some random glitching motions and then breaking, before it expired) and the Canon camera I have on extended loan has trouble with batteries and charging... I just have my phone at the moment, and while the photographs are not terrible, but they could be so much better quality. A new camera is something I will have to invest in when I get a job!


I was trailing behind the group, photographing the monuments, but the group
are very aesthetic from behind, so that wasn't too bad! Note monument styles.
The Necropolis is also interesting because it also shows a lot of monuments that are both historical now, and were historically inspired when they were made, harking back to ancient Rome and Greece, ancient Egypt, Byzantium, and even a few with Celtic crosses, representing a late Victorian-era Celtic Revival. Plenty of Gothic Revival monuments, too, but interestingly, much fewer than at Inverness' own necropolis at Tomnahurich. Obelisks, and Classically inspired designs seemed most popular, partly because many are older, but also I think out of stylistic choice. I do personally think that there's something about the angular geometry and severity of some variations of the Neo-Classical that is severe and sober, perfect for sombre memorials.


An angel perched in stone. Photo by myself.
There were some figurative monuments, some with a statue of the deceased, some, like the one above, with angels. I quite like this contemplative angel - the plinth is huge and solid, and many of the neighbouring monuments are stones of similar forms, so it almost looks like an angel just landed there, on top of the stone, which I guess was the idea.


Graves through the trees. Photograph by myself.
The landscaping of the Necropolis is really quite park-like - apart from the paths and terraces, there are a lot of flowers and trees, and a lot of grass! One of the reasons I love graveyards (I wrote a whole blog on the subject ::here::). The cherry blossoms were in bloom - I like cherry blossoms in graveyards, because I think of Japanese sakura blossoms, and how they can symbolise transience, which is very fitting for a graveyard. There were also plenty of bluebells. Spring happens later in Scotland than in England, I've noticed, even later where I am. 

Lolita group participant in the shade beneath a cherry tree. Photo by me.

The Lolita group, myself included, took a lot of outfit photos and pictures of each other. While they took photos by some of the graves, I wandered off, not too far because I was back in my high heels and I am precarious in them, to look for interesting graves and vistas. I actually brought my cane with me, both to stabilise myself while wearing heels, and to help me walk once I had taken them off because wearing heels all day makes my ankles pretty sore indeed.

Lou Graves ( @gravelvet on Instagram) took this.
I looked pretty aesthetic while wandering off! 
I spotted a set of steps by some trees that were a good spot to get a tiered group photo so everyone could be seen behind everyone else, but unfortunately, in my high heels I was one of the tallest members of the group, so I needed to stand right at the top of the stairs! I was quite unsteady while trying to walk up the stairs, and getting back down was even trickier. Sometimes my eye for what might look good exceeds my good sense. 

LaFantome, who was the organiser of our meet-up. Photo by me. 
On the way down the Necropolis hill, I spotted a really pretty Gothic Revival monument. I don't often like posing with gravestones (and I've explained why in the past), but this time I wanted a picture of me with a monument because I just wanted a memento of having been to what is probably my favourite monument in the whole Necropolis - a very elaborate Gothic Revival monument with ivy growing up it. It's got so many of my favourite elements of the Gothic style - having a Gothic arch within a steep triangular gable, pinnacles, and having a screen of detached tracery. 


Me standing in front of my favourite monument, photo by
After the event, the others went to The Winged Ox, a restaurant in a converted church, but I needed to get back to the bus station for my coach home again, so I walked back to the bus station - getting some sushi en route. 

Sunset from the coach window
Overall, I had a very enjoyable time. Next time I will try and find some elegant footwear that isn't heeled and is comfortable but pretty, because swapping between trainers and high heels was just holding the rest of the group up each time, and got pretty annoying for me, let alone everyone else. The 'Tea Party' style flat shoes common in Lolita tend to look better with Sweet styles, and Gothic Lolita is usually worn with chunky high heels, so I'm struggling to think of a flat alternative that will still look elegant, especially as I have big size EU 42/UK8 feet! Any suggestions from Lolitas are welcome.

I definitely want to go back to Glasgow Cathedral, especially to do a guided tour - although perhaps I'd annoy the tour guide as I'd have a LOT of questions about the building! I also want to go back there with a proper camera to capture some better quality shots of the Cathedral's interior, especially the vaulted ceilings and the stained glass windows. 

2 comments:

  1. I visited Glasgow Necropolis last year, it had grey gloomy weather with lots of rainfall. My photographs had the eery quality to them. I loved walking around both the cathedral it's just a fantastic building with a myriad of different gothic styles. I was mostly impressed by imposing height of the vaulted ceiling. I could imagine the choir sounding so ethereal, touching a one's soul.

    I love your photographs, especially seeing the necropolis it in verging verdant spring. It seems to offer a new beauty to the cemetery, resembling the land of the Faerie folk.

    It sounds like a fantastic day out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first time I went there, it was cloudy, misty, quite overcast. Everything was damp, there were few leaves anywhere, and the sky seemed so low, oppressively so - and then when I came back, it was completely different. It's really one of those places that shifts it's 'aura' and atmosphere quite a bit with the seasons and the weather, but even though that can be so changeable, whichever mode it is in, it is still strongly atmospheric.

      The height of the ceiling above the nave is so impressive, and I wish I'd got more photographs of where it's trusses rather than vaults.

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