MHG13184 - Pictish Symbol Stone - St. Thomas's Chapel, Skinnet 1


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Type and Period (2)

  • CROSS SLAB (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)
  • CARVED STONE (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Another sculptured stone taken from the wall of this chapel, in which it had been used as building material, lies in the museum at Thurso.
In the museum at Thurso lies in pieces a remarkably fine sculptured stone, taken from the chapel at Skinnet. It is a rectangular slab of sandstone 7' 6" in length 2'2" in width, and 7" in thickness, and is sculptured partly in relief and partly with incised lines on four faces, thus:
Front- A cross in relief in the centre of the slab, having four equal arms with expanded ends and small round hollows in the angles; a long, narrow shaft, and a rectangular base. In the background, round the head of the cross, four circular bosses or medallions; on each side of the shaft a serpentine creature, and below the base a pair of stepping horses, evidently yoked together. The ornamentation consists of spiral work, interlaced work, plait work and loops.
Back- A cross in the centre of the slab, having a head with square ends and rectangular hollows between the arms: a long, narrow shaft, and a rectangular base, the outline being formed by a band, making a loop at each corner. Though much defaced, the cross had apparently been filled with interlaced and spiral work. Below the cross is the triple oval symbol similar to that on the Sandside and Keiss stones, and at the bottom of all, the crescent and V-shaped sceptre symbol, both being decorated with spiral work in relief.
Right side- Divided into three panels, one containing an eight-cord plait, another interlaced work almost obliterated, and the third being defaced.
Left side- defaced.
This stone was discovered by Mr T.S. Muir in 1861, and the circumstances of its discovery and the state in which it then was, are narrated in his Ecclesiological Notes. It was subsequently moved to Thurso Museum.
Visited by RCAHMS, 20th August 1910.

In 1861, a sculptured stone was found in St Thomas' Chapel, Skinnet. Thurso Museum now owns the slab, and it is restored to its complete state; Allen and Anderson (1903) states it was in 6 pieces in 1903 of sandstone, 2.3m x 0.66m x 0.18m, it was decorated on all four faces of which the left one is seriously defaced. Interlace panels cover the right edge, while the front bears an ornamented cross, a horse and a pair of serpentine creatures. Circular bosses lie between the arms of the cross. On the reverse another, less ornate cross, a triple oval (cf Keirs and Sandside) and the crescent and V-rod symbols.

Also from St Thomas's Church, Skinnet came an upright slab measuring 1.5m x 0.83m x 0.13m. It stands c.1.8m out from the S wall of the chapel. On one face are the remains of a Celtic cross, only the upper arm of which is perfect. The rest is almost entirely defaced by the flaking surface.
Information from R Jones 1980

Class II symbol stone.On the front are a cross with a fish monster.At the base of the stone are the remains of a carving of two horses. On the reverse is another cross below which is a triple-oval above a crescent and V-rod.
A Mack 1997

Skinnet 1, Caithness (St Thomas), Pictish cross-slab
Measurements: H 2.3m, W 0.66m, D 0.18m
Stone type: Old Red Sandstone
Place of discovery: ND 1309 6205
Present location: Caithness Horizons, Thurso
Evidence for discovery: according to Muir, the stone was built into the interior W wall of the church and was removed in one piece in 1861. Subsequently it was broken into six fragments, before it was taken to Thurso Museum where Allen saw it in 1890.
Present condition: worn and broken but conserved.
This tall cross-slab is highly ornamented with carving in both relief and incision. Face A bears an equal-armed cross with slightly expanded terminals and small rounded armpits, set on a long shaft and a rectangular base. The side arms of the cross extend to the edge of the slab, but otherwise there appears to have been a narrow band of step pattern along the edge. The entire cross is outlined by a roll moulding which forms loops at the corners of the lower arm and plaitwork at all four corners of the base. There is spiral work forming a cross in the centre of the cross-head, and the rest of the interior is entirely filled with interlace designs. S-dragons flank the shaft immediately below the cross-head, their jaws biting the outline moulding of the shaft and extending to become part of the interlace rising up into the lower arm of the cross. Each S-dragon has a lappet on the head which forms dense interlace behind its body and a spiral tail. Between each arm of the cross is a disc, each filled with a different form of ornament. Incised below the base of the cross is a pair of horses and behind them John Borland has recognised part of the wheel of a chariot. Narrow face B bears interlace in two panels, in the top panel forming three small Greek crosses.
Face C bears an equal-armed cross with squared terminals and arm pits, set on a shaft and square base and outlined with a roll moulding which forms loops at every corner. There is interlace and spiral work within the cross. Below the base are incised two symbols: the triple oval and the crescent and V-rod, both ornamented. Recently recognised by RCAHMS are two human figures flanking the lower part of the base of the cross, dressed in gored tunics. Narrow face D bears traces of ornament.
Date range: late ninth or tenth century.
References: Muir 1885, 105; ECMS pt 3, 30-3; Blackie & Macaulay 1998: no 10.
Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

See link below to HES Canmore record for sketches and photographs of the stone.

This stone is listed in the Caithness Horizons catalogue under Acc. No. ARC65. <1>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred ND 1309 6204 (10m by 10m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND16SW
Civil Parish HALKIRK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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