MHG8831 - Cross-slab, Rosemarkie No. 1 - Rosemarkie Church, Rosemarkie


This magnificent Pictish cross-slab was found in two pieces in the floor of the old church in Rosemarkie in 1819/1820. The top and base were lost but a small part of the top left corner of face 'A' has been found separately. The cross slab is now on display in Groam House Museum.

Type and Period (1)

  • CROSS SLAB (Pictish to Early Medieval - 300 AD to 1057 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

No. 1. Class 2 cross-slab found in the floor of the old church before 1821, broken in two pieces but since fixed together. Until just prior to 1980 it stood outside the church close to the west porch but has since been moved to the Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie. The slab bears a complex design incorporating the double disc, crescent, Z- and V-rod symbols, and zoomorphic interlaced decoration.
J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; RCAHMS 1979.

Rosemarkie 1, Ross & Cromarty, Pictish cross-slab
Measurements: H 2.60m +, W 0.77m tapering to 0.71m, D 0.18m
Stone type: red sandstone
Place of discovery: NH 7372 5763
Present location: Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie (ROMGH.1992.1)
Evidence for discovery: found in two pieces in the floor of the old church prior to its demolition and the construction of a new church in 1821. Given the careful break between the two main panels on each face, it seems likely that the two halves had been re-used as gravestones at some earlier period, and the two square holes towards the base of face A may relate to that re-use. By the end of the nineteenth century, they had been concreted together and set upright in a metal cage outside the church. The slab was taken into Groam House Museum before it opened in 1980.
Present condition: very worn on all four surviving faces, as well as broken top and bottom. A small part of the top left corner of face A was found separately.
This very elaborately ornamented monument is carved in low relief on all four surviving faces, and it tapers slightly towards the base.
Face A is edged with a double roll moulding and is divided by single roll mouldings into three panels. In the centre of what was originally a rectangular panel is a small square panel defined by roll moulding, which contains an equal-armed cross with squared terminals to the arms and open circular armpits. The cross is worn smooth but may originally have been decorated, and there are traces of a fine roll moulding outlining it. The sunken background to the cross bears key pattern, which extends into the armpits as spirals. Around the cross panel are four vertical rows of conjoined circular interlace with cruciform shapes between the rows. The middle panel contains an inner rectangle of zoomorphic interlace surrounded by a border of interlace. Only the top part of the third panel survives, with two circles flanked by lentoid forms, all four containing dense interlace work.
Face B is edged by a single roll moulding and is divided transversely by flatband mouldings into six rectangular panels of differing length. Each contains interlaced work of differing designs.
Face C is edged by double roll mouldings and is divided into three large panels by single roll mouldings. The top panel contains four huge Pictish symbols: three crescents and V-rods and one double disc and Z-rod, each with elaborate internal ornament, although most of the top crescent is missing. This internal ornament ranges from open zoomorphic interlace to dense key pattern, and the double disc is filled with seventeen spiral bosses. Between the top two crescent and V-rod symbols is carved zoomorphic interlace, but the background to the two lower symbols is plain. Instead a small double-sided comb is tucked in between the double disc and the lower arm of its Z-rod, and below the lowest crescent and V-rod are two motifs resembling Roman paterae. The middle square panel has key pattern forming a border round a central square panel containing an equal-armed cross. Again the cross is worn smooth but may originally have been ornamented. It has a square centre and stepped arm terminals, and there is raised boss between each of the terminals; both cross and bosses are surrounded by dense interlace. The third panel is full of key pattern.
Face D is edged by single roll moulding and is divided by flatband mouldings into three long panels: the top contains interlace, the middle contains zoomorphic interlace and th lower median-incised interlace.
Date: eighth or ninth century.
References: ECMS pt 3, 63-8; Henderson 1990, [1-3]; Henderson & Henderson 2004, 49-52; Seright & Henderson 2013, 6-7.
Early Medieval Carved Stones Project, A Ritchie 2017.

The Rosemarkie cross-slab is taller and narrower than the early Pictish cross-slabs, and it breaks with the tradition of the full-length cross on the front face. On the reverse are two pairs of Pictish symbols carved in relief, as well as another small cross. The top half of the front of the slab is filled with repetitive interlaced-work around a recessed square panel containing the cross, the spaces between its arms containing key-pattern. Lower down comes animal-based interlace; the bottom part is much worn. The reverse face is unique in having the same symbol - the crescent-and-V-rod - repeated three times. There ia also a double-disc-and-Z-rod. The lower pair of symbols is accompanied by a comb and two mirror symbols. The edge is decorated with foliaceous interlace and knotwork. Much of this decoration is used also in luxuriously illuminated manuscripts of the period. As a place where this sculpture was produced, Rosemarkie, an important ecclesiastical centre, is likely also to have supported a scriptorium. Bishop Curetan of Rosemarkie attended the Synod of Birr 697 AD, where Adomnan's Law of the Innocents was ratified. This and the later dedication of the church to St Peter, combined with the sculptures and legends, reflects that Rosemarkie was a very significant centre connected with the king of the northern Picts, the Romanisation of the Pictish Church in 715-17 AD, and its subsequent organisation in the north, until the bishopric was moved to Fortrose in the medieval period. <1>

Note; a small part of the top left corner of face 'A' was found separately in a local garden - see MHG29571 (T.Blackie 4/3/2021)

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred NH 7373 5763 (4m by 4m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH75NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

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