The choice of Christian burials at Govan in Glasgow precede the time of St Columba which may indicate its origins go back to late Roman period – as indeed was the case with Whithorn. Thus worship at the site may have been without break since that time. The choice of the name Constantine by a 6C local king would have been very significant in this respect, though it is difficult to be sure of facts in this instance. However the circular wall of the early monastery and many stones from the period are strong evidence of the importance of the site. The finding of a large heavily decorated sarcophagus reinforces this. It is the only sarcophagus carved from a solid stone in northern Britain before the coming of the Normans.
King Constantine II, was the grandson of Kenneth Macalpin King of the Picts. When his cousin was killed by the Vikings he became King of both the Picts and the Gaels thus forming the new Kingdom of Alba. Much of modern Scotland was now either in this Kingdom or under his overlordship.
The Anglo-Saxons came north with an army of 3 Welsh kings and 6 Viking chiefs and Constantine and Owein of Strathclyde were forced to submit in a treaty made at Eamont Bridge. Athelstan claimed the title of ‘King of all Britain’. However within a year, after another battle, Athelstan’s dream fell apart.
In 934, having been king for 43 years Constantine retired and became a monk (a Culdee) at St Andrews. He died in 952
But to whom does the sarcophagus belong? Opinion is divided, some saying it dates to 550 and the early saint, others to 9/10 century and the first king of Alba. Under the later Constantine Govwn became the largest centre in Europe for carved stone crosses and graveslabs. This suggests the later dating. Or was the early sarcophagus used for the early saint and re-used for the later king? In the 12C Govan went into decline because king David I shifted his patronage to St Kentigern and Glasgow.
The Orthodox Church now celbrates the liturgy in Old Govan Church