Saint Mungo, the common name given to Saint Kentigern, lived in the 6th century and is the patron saint and founder of Glasgow. Serf, who raised and educated Kentigern, gave him the pet name ‘Mungo’ which translates to ‘my dear one.’ Here is a verse in the form of a riddle commonly used in Glasgow to help people remember the four miracles of Saint Mungo:
Here is the bird that never flew,
Here is the tree that never grew.
Here is the bell that never rang,
Here is the fish that never swam.
Where are they? The answer to this riddle is that all four of these items are found on the Glasgow Coat of Arms. Each item represents one of the four miracles attributed to St. Mungo. There are legends that tell about the miracles. An explanation follows and I make no claims as to the accuracy of my version of the stories.
The bird: When Mungo was a student of Saint Serf, some of his classmates stole Serf’s pet robin and killed it, then left it with Mungo in an attempt to place the blame on him for the death of the bird. Mungo is said to have prayed over the bird and brought it back to life.
The tree: Mungo was left in charge of the monastery fire to keep it burning in the monks’ absence. He fell asleep and either let the fire burn out or some of the students put it out while he slept. When he woke and discovered the fire was out, he took a branch from a tree and prayed with it in his hands. The branch caught fire and Mungo rekindled the fire with it.
The bell: The bell is thought to have been brought back from Rome after Mungo made a pilgrimage there. The bell was said to have been used in services and to mourn the deceased. The original bell no longer exists. A replacement bell was created in the mid-1600’s, and it is now on display in Glasgow.
The fish: The most legendary miracle follows a plea by Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde. King Riderch had given his queen the gift of a ring. When the king noticed a member of his court with the ring on his hand, he suspected his wife of infidelity. He requested the ring from his associate which he later threw into the river. Then he confronted the queen with his suspicions and threatened to have her executed if she did not produce the ring by the end of the day. Fearing for her life, the queen appealed to Mungo for help. He ordered a servant to go fish in the river and bring him the first fish he caught. The servant returned with a salmon that Mungo sliced open and in the fish’s stomach was the ring. The queen presented the ring to her husband that evening, thus saving her life.
Mungo preached Christianity on the current site of the Glasgow Cathedral. Under the patronage of King Riderch, he is believed to have been the first Bishop of Glasgow. In a sermon, Mungo is said to have included the call to ‘Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word.’ The more secular ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ remains the city’s motto to this day.