Blog by Gillian Hovell, The Muddy Archaeologist www.muddyarchaeologist.co.uk
A new virtual tour begins. I’m just back from the recent Smithsonian Journey’s ‘In the Wake of the Vikings’ cruise, sailing out of Glasgow, exploring the Highlands and the Scottish islands and then on to Norway and Denmark’s Copenhagen. I was delighted to have been one of the lecturers on their eight glorious days travelling around marvellous sites with great company and managed so well by Gohagan & Co.
So we began in Glasgow, where our ship, the L’Austral, awaited us at Greenock port. But first, we visited Glasgow’s cathedral. It’s a very rare survival, escaping being burnt down thanks to the protection of the merchants’ guilds who had invested so much in the building. Their coats of arms decorate one of the recent stained glass windows that provide such a blaze of colour. Biblical stories and images of saints surround us, including St.Ninian whom we shall meet on a future day of the tour …
Here too is the resting place of St.Mungo, the bishop of the town in the early AD 600s . This ancient site of pilgrimage remains an inspirational place today.
The Cathedral revels in its stonework, both outside and inside. We were honoured to be treated to a talk by the stone mason, who shared his skill and knowledge in shaping the sandstone to renovate ancient gothic arches and carvings. We marvelled at the agelessness of the chisel and tools that stone masons still use today.
Around the cathedral is a dark reminder of body snatching days, as tombs sit encased in metal cages to protect the dead from grisly examinations. And looming over the cathedral grounds is the necropolis, the city of the dead, founded in 1833 to prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera which raced through packed Victorian cities.
And outside is the nearby St.Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art which has an eclectic and comprehensive mix of items, from Egypt, to ancient Cyprus, Japan …
A final treat before heading for the ship was the Kelvingrove Museum of Art, where Dali’s painting of Christ of St.John of the Cross was a powerful draw. As an archaeologist, I headed next to the ancient galleries, with a first millennia log boat, Neolithic art, Bronze Age pots and jewellery and more.
The museum galleries range from Egyptian objects to a World War II spitfire and to an exploration of the natural world.
Then it was on to our beautiful ship, Ponant’s ‘L’Austral’ for our small ship cruise. On the roadside outside the Centre of Religious Life, it had amused me to see a replica blue police box, in Dr Who style. Our tour and our cruise would be our very own form of time travelling and would take us from the Neolithic of 5,000 years ago, through the Pictish era and on to the Viking age and beyond.