Necropolis: Ancient 'city of the dead' looking down on Glasgow

The Glasgow Necropolis was officially opened in May 1833.

For nearly 200 years a ‘city of the dead’ has been watching over Glasgow.

Housing 50,000 souls from the 19th century, the Victorian era Necropolis is one of the most visually impressive places in the city.

And 190 years after the first body was buried there it remains a popular visitor attraction for locals, tourists and even superheroes.

History of the Glasgow Necropolis

Necropolis: Angel statue in ancient cemetery.Fotomem via iStock

Inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the idea for the cemetery was first launched in 1831 and it was officially opened in May 1833, however the first burial actually took place a year earlier.

It is home to several well known names from yesteryear including philanthropist Isabella Elder, golfer William Doleman and poet William Miller.

The Necropolis was one of the few cemeteries at the time that kept records of the dead, including profession, ages, sex and cause of death.

 Ralph Wardlaw tombstone with his bust and the Cathedral spire behind.ClaudinVM via iStock

In July 1878 the visitors book shows that just under 14,000 people visited the site, including 12,400 citizens and 1,333 other visitors.

In 1966, it became under the control of Glasgow City Council which now administers and maintains it.

Monuments at the site were designed by notable architects of the day including Charles Rennie Macintosh, JT Rochead, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, who is buried at the neighbouring Southern Necropolis situated in the city’s Gorbals area, and David Hamilton.

Glasgow's William Wallace monument is at the Necropolis. iStock

Hollywood appeal

Two years ago the Necropolis doubled up as Gotham City to host Batman when the caped crusader was in Glasgow to film his latest movie The Batman.

The cemetery was selected as the ideal setting for the background of the movie starring Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz as Batman and Catwoman.

Filming for started early in 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a halt.

Batman was spotted making an uncharacteristic error when he fell from his motorbike while filming inside the Necropolis.

Glasgow Necropolis: From a trailed for the new Batman movie.Warner Bros.

During a visit to the site for his World Tour of Scotland series in the early 90s, Billy Connolly compared Glasgow to Tennessee in USA and said: “it doesn’t care much for the living, but it really looks after the dead.”

Where is it and how do I get there?

Located on a prominent hill behind the Glasgow Cathedral the Necropolis looks down on the city centre from Townhead on its eastern edge.

Necropolis: Area remains popular with tourists and locals.

Open from 7am till 4.30pm every day, the main gates lie behind St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art at Cathedral Square.

There is also a gate at Wishart Street and an entrance off John Knox Street opposite Cathedral House Hotel.

It is walking distance from anywhere in Glasgow city centre, roughly 20 minutes from St Enoch Square and half an hour from the far end of Sauchiehall Street, and a 57 bus service to Glebe Street can be used if travelling by public transport.

Its nearest train station is High Street Station which is around a ten minute walk away.

Walking tours are available.

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