Queen’s Cross Church story begins when John Honeyman of Glasgow’s Honeyman & Keppie architectural practice was given, from the Free Church of St Matthew, the contract to build a new church, near Maryhill, a poor neighbourhood with tenements and warehouses.
We are in 1897.
A young artist, studying at the Glasgow School of Art is gaining popularity inside the city’s architectural realm.
His name is Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
He was only fifteen years of age when he began evening classes at The Glasgow School of Art.
A year later, in 1884, he began an professional training of 5 years with Glasgow architect John Hutchins. Once his term was completed, he joined the Honeyman & Keppie practice.
Mr Honeyman decides to allocate the new church project to Mackintosh who starts the sketchings in 1897. The construction begins in June 1898 and the first service is celebrated no later than September 10th, 1899!
The Queen’s Cross Church was not an easy project to deal with due to cadastral constraints which had Mackintosh work with asymmetry, but he managed, against all odds, to draw a plan to fit everything together.
Upon visiting the church in 2007, (under which roof are now located the offices of The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society), we easily noticed the contrast between the exterior of the building and the inside.
As shown on the photos above, the Gothic and Medieval Art happily influenced the young architect in his exteriors and facade drawings.
But the magic really starts to operate when you step inside the church…
While you gradually immerse yourself in the spacious, quiet and relaxing atmosphere, the natural light shining in from all sides of the main room, leaves you breathing easy and deep. It’s simply wonderful!
One might think that the dark color of the wood would cause the hall to shed darkness, but surprisingly enough, the magnificent stained glasses, especially the blue-heart window, allows light to flow inside the church in a very gentle manner.
Mackintosh’s pictorial style of organic motifs adorns the pulpit, suggesting bird wings protecting young shoots on a fertile soil and as you lift your eyes to the “barrel-vaulted” timber ceiling, you can admire the “ark-like” boat, which references St Matthew’s text inside the bible. (See quotation below).
(…) Within the asymmetrical exterior, a hulking sculptural mass that suggests a rock, the interior glows with abstract stained glass. At first it was to be called St. Matthew’s, so there are details with a ‘Matthew’ theme … plus usual Christian symbols and some that are offbeat: apples, bees and an astounding ship’s hull of a ceiling. Banded with steel and barrel-vaulted, it’s an Ark upside-down, reminiscent also of medieval barns.
Only stems and leaves adorn the pulpit and communion table, as if to hint faith brings forth its own fruit and flowers.
Charles clearly felt at home with the Queen’s Cross project, even though the institution was of the Free Church of Scotland chain, whereas his own religious background was Catholic. Whatever his and Margaret’s deepest spiritual beliefs may have been … perhaps principally in those ” flowers’ of art that can blossom above our everyday leaves … they sustained them when tested.
The Queen’s Cross Church is a great example of Mackinstosh’s audacity where he mixes the traditional and modern elements of design to form an holistic view.
Fact to keep in mind: this building was the only complete church building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Be it said also that the original rood beam inside the church, a pre-Reformation style element, as mentioned in Wikipedia, is unique in Scotland.
Mind you, he did design the Free Church Halls at Ruchill Street in Glasgow, inside which there is today a “Mackintosh Tea Room”. Wow…Mairiuna, tea lover by excellence, let’s be sure to include this church on our itinerary for the next trip to Glasgow.