As we have begun to see, it is impossible to understate the importance of the Christian Church to the development of Glasgow.

By the middle of the 13th century the small town was in no way comparable in size to the likes of Edinburgh, but Glasgow punched above its weight because of its importance within the church – as previously reported, the bishops of Glasgow diocese did much to enhance the town in the 1100s, and by 1240 its importance as a religious centre was confirmed when the Dominican Order of preaching friars came to Glasgow, followed by the Franciscans.

Founded in 1216 as the Order of Preachers by the Spanish saint Dominic of Caleruega, the Dominicans, or Blackfriars as they became known due to their black habits, had grown rapidly in prestige so it must have been a real coup for Glasgow to attract them.

The Franciscans, the Order of Friars Minor, had been founded before the Dominicans by St Francis of Assisi, and they became known as the Greyfriars due to the colour of their habits.

The friars wanted to build their own place of worship in Glasgow so in 1246 Pope Innocent IV issued a Bull (papal letter) stating that anyone who contributed to the building of the new church or chapel should get 40 days’ indulgence – remission from one’s anticipated time in Purgatory.

To the devout Christians of the time, such an indulgence was a genuine spur to contribution to the church, and further ancient records show that the building went ahead roughly halfway between the Cathedral and the Clyde in an area that would now be just off the High Street.

It is largely from church records that we know that Glasgow expanded in the second half of the 13th century as several of the town’s burgesses were able to support the local clergy with grants of land, while the scanty records of their secular dealings in land and buildings indicate expansion.

It is very much the case that Glasgow in the middle of the 13th century was seen as important within the church, not least because of the Cathedral dedicated to St Kentigern or Mungo, one of the most venerated of all the saints in the Celtic church.

That both the Dominicans and Franciscans set up a base in Glasgow – between them, they also did so in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Ayr – shows that there were plenty Christians in and around the town, because the main cause of the friars was to preach repentance and condemn heresy among Christians.

With Scotland being wholly Christian by the 1200s, it may well have been that the church wanted stricter adherence to Roman rites and rules, and the friars were the very men to achieve that.

Glasgow Times:

It is known that they roamed up and down the valley of the Clyde preaching to people who would welcome them and give them support in cash and kind.

Yet quite maddeningly we have no real records of what they did in Glasgow, which at that time was split into two distinct areas – the part around the cathedral and the area near the Clyde which was the home of most of the people including the tradesmen who dealt in agricultural products such as leather and wool.

It is tempting to say that by setting up ‘shop’ halfway between these two areas, the friars themselves encouraged the expansion of the town, but the truth is that we cannot say with any certitude what happened after the friars came to Glasgow, though we do know that the small town was about to play an important role in national affairs due almost entirely to one man.

Bishop Robert Wishart took office as Bishop of Glasgow after his predecessor as bishop elect, William Wishart, resigned to become Bishop of St Andrews on June 2, 1271.

Robert Wishart was either the cousin or nephew of Bishop William, the family name thought to derive from Wiseheart.

It was not until 1273 that Robert Wishart, who had been Archdeacon of St Andrews and probably Lothian as well, was consecrated by the Bishop of Aberdeen.

To know why Wishart came to play a huge part in Scottish history, you need to be aware of the background in Scotland at the time.

King Alexander III, who had been well inclined to Glasgow and to Wishart himself, died in a tragic accident when he fell from his horse and down a cliff at Kinghorn in Fife on March 19, 1286.

Under Alexander, Scotland had officially been enlarged by the Treaty of Perth in 1266 which brought the Western Isles and the Isle of Man under his rule – a great relief to the entire west coast of mainland Scotland but especially to the various settlements around the Clyde where the threat of Norse invasion was taken very seriously.

Alexander’s three children including his son and heir Prince Alexander all died in the space of three years from 1281 to 1284, their mother Margaret of England having died in 1275.

It was because he had remarried to the lustrous Yolande de Dreux that Alexander, who was under the influence of alcohol, set off on a wild and windy night to be with her and duly fell to his death.

The dead king had arranged that if he should die without issue, his granddaughter Margaret should be his heir. She was the daughter of Alexander’s oldest child Margaret and King Eric II of Norway, her mother dying shortly after giving birth to Margaret, who at the age of three was now heiress to the throne of Scotland.

Robert Wishart was given the singular honour of being named one of the six Guardians of Scotland and from the outset, the bishop and his fellow Guardians did everything they could to preserve the peace in the country while they allowed the Maid of Norway, as Margaret became known to history, to grow up at her father’s court until such times as she was old enough and string enough to make the arduous journey to Scotland.

In September, 1290, Margaret sailed to Scotland but got no further than Orkney where she died at the age of just seven. There was no heir to the throne and in England a king saw his chance – Edward I, otherwise known as Longshanks or the Hammer of the Scots.

Next week I will tell the story of how the Bishop of Glasgow came to Scotland’s rescue.