At SGT we're a Christian community, right at the heart of a busy city centre, growing together in our walk with God, in discipleship with each other, and with a deliberate focus on mission to the world around us.
It’s a strange name, St George’s Tron… more reminiscent of legends about dragon-slaying or cult science fiction films, than the name of a Presbyterian place of worship! So how did this imposing Church of Scotland building, displaying on its walls and its interior glass doors the motto of Glasgow, “Let Glasgow flourish, through the preaching of the Word andd the Praising of His Name!”, come to get its name?
We don’t know why this church bears the name of St. George, a 3rd century Greek soldier who was martyred for his bold faith in Jesus. WE do know that his courage in facing up to his commander-in-chief, the Roman Emperor, so impressed the later English Crusaders that he became England’s patron saint.
‘The Tron’, as the Church has commonly been known in the city of Glasgow for many decades, tells a more Scottish story which goes back to the 6th century St Mungo, credited with founding this city of Glasgow when it was little more than a rural settlement on the Clyde. Originally St. Kentigern, this popular bishop came to be known as St. Mungo (meaning ‘dear one’). He founded a church on a spot he called ‘Glasgui’ (meaning ‘dear green place’) which later became the site of Glasgow’s medieval Cathedral, which was later given his name and which was situated in what was then the city’s eastern perimeter. This year, 2013, celebrates the 1,400th anniversary of St. Mungo’s death.
He is said to have preached a sermon containing the prayer, “Let Glasgow flourish by the Preaching of thy Word and the praising of thy Name”. In those days, the church not only preached the Good News about Jesus Christ, it also played an important role in the commercial life of society, and for this reason, Mungo’s prayer came to be adopted as the motto of the city he helped to found.
But there was a connection with the last part of the motto: “…the praising of Thy Name”. In the early 16th century a Song School was founded at the Trongate, so named because this was the gate through which goods being brought into the city from the river Clyde were weighed and taxed – the word ‘Tron’ is a Scots word of Norman origin, for weighing scales –and at the Trongate there was a 16th century weigh beam. The Song School was intended for choristers of the newly built Collegiate Church of St. Mary and St. Anne. At the Reformation in 1560 the school was disbanded and the church initially abandoned on account of the Reformers’ objection to Masses being sung to secure – as they believed - the liberation of departed souls from purgatory.
However, the Church was soon restored as Glasgow’s second parish church in 1592, being called the ‘Laigh Church’, to differentiate it from the ‘Hei Kirk’, St. Mungo’s Cathedral, and later as the ‘Tron Kirk’, because the public weights used at the Trongate, were housed at the church for many years.
Around the Tron arose the ‘market cross’ – the focal point for Glasgow’s substantially increased trading activities – with a tollbooth for collecting market tolls. An annual eight day fair, with markets and entertainment was held here each July, and the name continues to this day as the ‘Glasgow Fair’, the term used to describe the annual ‘trades’ holiday which takes places in the last fortnight of July.
When a notorious Hell Fire Club set fire to the church in 1793, a new church was built around the surviving spire that is still a prominent feature of the former church building to this day, although the building itself is now the Tron Theatre.
Rev Thomas Chalmers
At that time, the Tron Kirk’s most notable minister was Rev Thomas Chalmers, who for four years preached to a packed building – it is said that he had to climb in the window in order to get into the pulpit! Chalmers worked tirelessly in the slum areas which surrounded the church. Later, he became a focus for the principle of ‘non-intrusionism’, which held that no minister should be ‘intruded’ or imposed upon a parish, contrary to the will of the congregation. Debate over this issue grew more and more intense, culminating in the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843. At the heart of the debate lay the question: Who is head of the Church? Jesus Christ? Or the State which reserved the right, through the principle of ‘patronage,’ (the opposite of non-intrusionism), to allow wealthy patrons to impose a minister of their own choosing into the parish church, without regard for the will of the congregation?
As a result of the Disruption, there emerged two Tron churches, one was Tron St. Anne’s (a Free Church of Scotland) and the other Tron St. Mary’s, the Church of Scotland church. Tron St. Anne’s moved to a new city centre building and was prominently involved in the 1859 revival, planting five new churches, which in turn were responsible for planting a further twenty.
Our Current Home
Meanwhile, in 1808 the city of Glasgow had built a grand new church for the ‘Back Wynd’ congregation (a congregation which had originally formed in 1687 and had worshipped in a building in the heart of Glasgow’s slums). This was the 8th burgh church to be built in Glasgow. This new building - the present St. George’s Tron building – was at that time situated at the extreme west end of the rapidly expanding city, although today, that same location is at the heart of the city centre. At that time, however, much of the surrounding landscape was still pastoral – indeed the railings of the church were originally built to keep sheep and cattle away from the building!
In time, this congregation became known as St. George’s Parish Church and in 1940 it merged with the former Tron St. Anne’s congregation, which by now had returned to the Church of Scotland, to become St. George’s Tron Parish Church. (Tron St. Mary’s Church having moved to another part of Glasgow in 1946.)