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Glasgow Necropolis

Glasgow Necropolis

On the hill above Glasgow Cathedral lies one of the biggest tourist attractions in Glasgow, a massive collection of obelisks, monuments, statues and mausoleums. Glasgow’s city of the dead, the Necropolis is the final resting ground for thousands of Glasgow’s who’s who from the city’s heyday. The main entrance to the Necropolis is via the Bridge of Sighs from the Cathedral Precinct, following the winding pathways around and up to the top of the second highest hill in Glasgow.

Originally the hill which now houses the dead was called Fir Park, the name referring to the Scots Firs planted on the rocky hillside facing the Cathedral after the land had been bought by the Merchant’s House in 1650. By the early 1800s the fir trees began to die and were replaced with elms and willows, converting the area to a Victorian Park. In 1825 the Necropolis began to take shape when the dominating monument to John Knox was erected at the top of the hill (more on John Knox below). The Bridge of Sighs over the Molendinar Burn was finished in 1833, a year after the first burial at the Necropolis. After several extensions in the late 19th century, the Necropolis has grown to its current size of 37 acres (15 ha).

Designed as an interdenominational burial ground, the first burial at the Necropolis was a local Jewish jeweller by the name of Joseph Levi, with the first Christian burial the following year. The Necropolis is a memorial to the men and women who made Glasgow the ‘Second City of the Empire’, and having financed the Victorian resurgence of the city, they spared little expense in their final resting places. The tombs, monuments and architecture of the burial ground were designed by major architects and sculptors of the time, such as Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, Charles Rennie Macintosh, John Bryce, David Hamilton and JT Rochead, creating a testimony to the wealth of the merchants in a plethora of styles. The some 50,000 people buried in approximately 3,500 tombs make up pretty much every single eminent Glaswegian of the time.

Just like Kelvingrove Park, the Glasgow Necropolis also has a Heritage Trail you can pick up at any Glasgow Museum and follow the route around the most interesting bits of the burial ground. The Heritage Trail takes about an hour and 45 minutes (if you’re walking at a leisurely pace) and contains 35 key sites of interest. Highly suggest grabbing a copy of the leaflet and taking the walk on a sunny day.

Glasgow Trivia #28: The tallest monument at the Glasgow Necropolis was also the first erected there, back in 1825. The 62m column is a monument to John Knox (1510-1572), a prominent Scottish clergyman and the leader of the Protestant Reformation,  featured here in Genevan gown and holding a bible in his right hand. The monument was the first statue of John Knox erected in Scotland, some 250 years after his death. Although the Necropolis is populated by the remains of wealthy Glaswegians, John Knox is not among them, even though the tallest and most visible monument is dedicated to him. He was in fact buried in Edinburgh, where he died while in the position of the Minister of Edinburgh. It seems he would have been better of buried at the Glasgow Necropolis, as apparently he is buried under what is now a car park in Edinburgh. Nevertheless, his monument enjoys some of the best views of Glasgow.

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