Saint Kentigern, or Mungo, is the patron saint of Glasgow, yet, though he remains a popular cultural figure, his mother and one time co-patron of the city, Saint Thenog, has been largely forgotten. Saint Thenog has importance as both a folkloric and historical figure; as a woman, single mother, abuse survivor, and religious refugee; as a fading memory, a legend, and as a ghost haunting the roads between the firths of Forth and Clyde. Her story is a vehicle through which we can explore and untangle all the palimpsests of religion, folklore, gender, identity, landscape, language, politics, and history that have woven themselves into our lives over the last fifteen hundred years.
The Vita Thenogi is a hagiography of Saint Thenog, modelled as a pastiche of the 12th century Vita Kentigerni by Jocelyn of Furness; scribed, illuminated, and bound with great care and using historically accurate methods. This life of Thenog has been translated into many different languages by volunteers to explore what can be lost or gained through the process of translation- into different languages (as the monks, nuns, and scholars who originally scribed and illuminated religious texts would have done) and across time. By using these translations, the Vita tells the story of Glasgow’s mother in the mother tongues of its present-day inhabitants and, as such, aims to be representative and inclusive of Glasgow’s diverse, modern-day community.
It is also an attempt to plug a gap in our material history – there are no hagiographies of Saint Thenog (only references to her in hagiographies of her son) nor are there any surviving historical depictions of her in art. By appropriating the methods and aesthetics of the early medieval era, the Vita Thenogi hopes to furnish the unfortunately sparse historical record and invoke the fading memory of Saint Thenog with a work that is both a historical document and a devotional object.
(Cotton rag paper, iron oak gall ink, egg tempera, various pigments, gold leaf, linen thread and cordage, madder dyed silk, nettle dyed cotton. 27 x 17cm)