Building's architectural history
The style of the Cathedral is Normandy Gothic, as preferred by its previous owners and inspired by Dunblane Cathedral. Its architect, Jim Sellars, combined tall lancet windows, sturdy turrets and muscular buttresses in a powerful composition which closes the vista from Great Western Road. A flight of steps leads to the entrance in a low arcade which joins the main building to the church hall which accommodates a school for Greek studies and dancing.
Once inside, the full power of Sellars' imagination and the present owners' commitment to the building's restoration is revealed in the interiors' marvelous display of Victorian stained glass (by Stephen Adam), the richly stenciled roof timbers and the original light fittings and furniture. Complementing these is a modern iconostasi, by the late George Tombazis, featuring icons of the Eptanesian and Cretan Schools, some of which were painted on Mount Athos in the traditional Byzantine style.
The Church which is today the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Luke, was built in 1877 as the Belhaven Church for a United Presbyterian congregation which met there until 1960. One of the first members of the congregation was the building's architect, James Sellars.
Born in Glasgow in 1843, the son of a house factor, Sellars was apprenticed to Hugh Barclay in 1857 then later partnered Campbell Douglas after winning the Stewart Memorial Fountain competition (Kelvingrove Park, 1872). This success led to a constant flow of commissions for buildings of every type in a variety of styles throughout the city and Scotland. Chief amongst these was his masterpiece, the spectacular St. Andrew's Halls (Cranville St, 1873) and Kelvinside Academy (Bellhaugh Rd, 1877).
The great building boom of the 1870s that ended abruptly with the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878, for which Sellars had designed one of his finest buildings (Glassford St, demolished 1959), revived with the building of the City Chambers for which Sellars twice unsuccessfully submitted designs in the controversial competitions of 1881 and 1882.
Another competition, however, provided Sellars with his final success, the International Exhibition buildings, Kelvingrove, 1888. It is said that Sellars stood on a nail whilst visiting the construction site and that the resulting infection led to his death, at the age of 45, from gangrene. He was buried in Lambhill Cemetery, for which he had earlier designed a triumphal entrance arch (1880), his grave being marked with an Egyptian style monument designed in 1890 by his assistant John Keppie and ornamented by sculptor James Pittendrigh MacGillivray.
Other buildings in Glasgow by Sellars, include:
• 1875 Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church, Saltoun St
• 1878 Finnieston Parish Church, 41 Derby St
• 1879 James Sellars House, 144 West Regent St and Glasgow Herald Building, 63 Buchanan St
• 1882 Victoria Infirmary, Grange Rd, Langside
• 1883 Fraser's Department Store, Buchanan St
• 1887 Couper Institute, 84-86 Clarkston Rd
• 1888 Anderson College of Medicine, 56 Dumbarton Rd
Mackintosh Building Survey
Date of building 1890-1, 1898-9, 1904 and 1913
Listing Category : B
OS grid coordinates : NS 56281 67493
Postcode : G12 9LL
Mackintosh Architecture reference : M028
RCHAMS Site No : NS556NE 1148
A survey report was prepared as part of the Mackintosh Building Survey project commissioned by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and funded by The Monument Trust. The objective of the project is to undertake building surveys with a view to determining the current condition of a range of prioritised Mackintosh buildings and related works, including interiors and gravestones. The work was undertaken by Simpson & Brown Architects and Page\Park Architects with the range of approximately 40 projects being allocated between the practices.
A key resource in undertaking research on any of Mackintosh's work is the Mackintosh Architecture-Context, Making and Meaning website, this resulting from a major project led by The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council; with additional support from The Monument Trust, The Pilgrim Trust and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; and collaborative input from Historic SCotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The information included here for ease of reference and completeness is drawn from that site.
The survey was undertaken by Mr John Sanders of Simpson & Brown on 11th September 2015 (c).
The building is a beautiful Gothic Revival church by James Sellars. It is a remarkable 19th-century church and the work associated with Mackintosh is restricted to furnishings; it should be noted that most of the joinery associate with Mackintosh is not in its original position and the panels have suffered some minor surface damage that can easily be made god by decorative repair. Much of the 19th century detail from the original construction is still in position including the painted ceiling, the Gothic trusses in the roof and glazed partitions. The building is in fair condition. There is relatively little staining or blistering on the inside apart from the north (liturgically west) wall where evaporation from saturated masonry has pushed off paint in the NW corner. There are some drips and loss of paint in the northern part of the west aisle.
The design of the church appears to have been an exceptionally altar-focused or Anglican pattern for Presbyterian worship with an apse to the south and a tester above. The changes for Orthodox worship have altered the interior visually but have had relatively minimal physical impact on the significance or understanding of the building. An iconostasi has been fitted across the apse.
The characteristic Mackintosh detail is on the posts in the rails around the former sanctuary. These posts and rails have been moved. They do not fit together correctly where they have been re-assembled. The sections between the posts are simple Gothic Revival with no Mackintosh character. The posts are undoubtedly Mackintosh with vertical panels at the centre, with each panel being slightly different. The panels rise to a flattened organic shaped cope. There are six posts altogether, the one shown below is on the left hand side when facing the iconostasi.
These posts rising up to the pulpit appear to have been re-used from another position and may have been in a similar use to the rails around the sanctuary. While the posts are in good condition and are by Mackintosh, everything in-between is standard Gothic Revival and looks earlier; it may be that the handrail is Mackintosh detail.
Above the door to the east is a curious Gothic Revival canopy which bears some traces of Mackintosh detail particularly the use of ovals in the tracery. The two panels on the side have standard crockets but the tracery within the gable and the blind tracery below
the crockets on either side bear Mackintosh characteristics as does the sinous moulding below the central gable. Although the condition of this door case is fair, the top crocket is squint and in need to be fixed.
At the western end under the gallery there is a panel which also has characteristic Mackintosh detail. They have a similar design as other posts. Within the panel below there is a curious mix of standard trefoil arches but the open work above it has a sinous
quality which might be Mackintosh. Although the condition of this panel is fair, it is not in its original position and it has been recycled and remounted at the back of the church in a block which includes plywood. The timber tracery continues to remain in good condition except for the central panel where the tracery has been entirely broken away. The two pictures below show details of this panel and its post fixings.
Published by Nondas Pitticas, April 2016