The Coat of Arms
The University of Glasgow's crest depicts the legend of St Kentigern or St Mungo, with the addition of the Book of Learning and a representation of the University Mace. The Latin motto on the ribbon - 'Via, Veritas, Vita' - is 'the Way, the Truth, the Life'.
The Mace is the symbol of the University's corporate dignity, it has a silver shaft and a hexagonal head of gold and enamel work. It was made for the University in France in 1465.
The story of the life of St Kentigern is vague and of the many legends the following is generally accepted. He was born at Culross on the north shore of the Firth of Forth in the early years of the sixth century, the son of Urien, Prince of Cumbria, and Thenew, daughter of the King of Lothian. He was educated and trained as a priest of the Celtic Church at the monastery of St Serf at Culross, Fife. The name Kentigern means 'High Lord' but St Serf was very fond of him and called him Mungo, meaning "my dear friend". In about 550 Mungo finished his training and went to the house of a holy man named Fergus at Kernach. Fergus died the night he arrived and Mungo placed his body on a cart yoked by two wild bulls commanding them to convey it to the place ordained by the Lord. They stopped at Cathures where Fergus was buried and Mungo established a church. Mungo refered to this spot as 'Glasgu' or the beloved green place. This became Glasgow and the church developed into Glasgow Cathedral. Mungo lived an ascetic and holy life until his death in 603. He was canonised and became the patron saint of Glasgow with a feast day on 13 January.
The legend of St Mungo depicted on the University crest consists of: 'Here's the Bird that never flew' - the wild robin which St Serf tamed. It was accidentally killed by some of his disciples who blamed it on Mungo. He took the dead bird in his hands and prayed, restoring it to life, whereupon it flew to its master. 'Here's the Bell that never rang' - the bell may have been given to St Mungo by the Pope but there is no definite information as to how he obtained it. By the fifteenth century St Mungo's handbell had become a notable Glasgow symbol. Handbells were common in the Celtic church and were used by Holy men to call the flock to worship. In 1450, John Stewart, "the first provost that was in Glasgow", left, as did many others, an endowment to have the bell tolled throughout the city to call the inhabitants to pray for his soul. The fate of the original bell is unknown although it was known still to exist in 1578. A replacement was purchased by Town Magistrates in 1641 and this bell is still in the People's Palace Museum.
'Here's the Tree that never grew' - the tree is now depicted as an oak but it started in the legend as a hazel branch. As a boy in the monastery Mungo was left in charge of the holy fire in the refectory. He fell asleep and some of the other boys, being envious of him, put out the fire. When he woke and found what had happened, Mungo broke off some frozen branches from a hazel tree and caused them to burst into flames by praying over them.
'Here's the Fish that never swam' - the fish with a ring in its mouth is a salmon and the ring was a present from Hydderch Hael, King of Cadzow, to his Queen, Languoreth. The Queen gave the ring to a knight and the King, suspecting an intrigue, took it from him while he slept during a hunting party and threw it into the River Clyde. On returning home the King demanded the ring and threatened Languoreth with death if she could not produce it. The Queen appealed to the knight who, of course, could not help and then confessed to St Mungo who sent one of his monks to fish in the river, instructing him to bring back the first fish caught. This was done and St Mungo extracted the ring from its mouth.