Iona, St Martin's Cross


Site Name Iona, St Martin's Cross

Classification Cross

Canmore ID 21653

Site Number NM22SE 4.4

NGR NM 28632 24504

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilfinichen And Kilvickeon
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Reference (1903)

NM22SE 4.04 28632 24504

(NM 2863 2449) St Martin's Cross (NR)

OS 25" map (1900)

A high cross of red granite, probably dating from about 800 AD. It is sculptured in low relief and stands 16'8" high in its stepped base. The name is of no great age.

J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; R Reece, undated

External Reference (28 October 2011)

Scheduled as element within 'The monument known as St Mary's Abbey, Iona, monastic settlement [comprising] the remains of the large early historic monastic settlement founded by St Columba in AD 563, St Martin's Cross, and parts of medieval buildings associated with the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary founded around AD 1200.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 28 October 2011.

Field Visit (9 June 1972)

As described.

Visited by OS (RD), 9 June 1972.

Reference (2001)

(Iona 83) ST MARTIN'S CROSS. This cross, whose name was recorded by Lhuyd in 1699, stands in a granite base (no.97) 21m W of the abbey church. It is carved from a single block of grey epidiorite, probably from the Argyll mainland, and is 4.3m in visible height by 1.19m in span. The diameter of the pierced ring is 1.09m and that of the armpits 0.24m. In the ends of the arms are vertical slots, open at the top, which may have housed ornamental panels rather than extensions for the arms. The angles bear roll-mouldings which on the W face extended below the lowest panel to flank an inscription, now indecipherable. The shaft of the E face bears three roundels of snake-and-boss ornament, a coarser variant of that in the same position on St John's Cross. In the top of the shaft are seven interlaced bosses, each producing two snakes, and the largest of these is also one of the group of five high-relief bosses in the cross-head. That at the centre is set in a ring of nine small bosses linked by spirals, and in the side-arms each boss produces three snakes, while that in the top arm lies between two pairs of rampant leonine beasts. The E face of the ring bears knitted interlace.

On the W face the lowest panel bears six bosses with intertwined serpents, followed by four rows of figure-scenes on an undivided field.

(i) Two pairs of figures, too simplified for identication.

(ii) A harper, seated with outstretched legs as on St Oran's Cross and facing a kneeling man with a (?triple) pipe; a rectangle between them may represent a drum or a book symbolising David's authorship of the psalms.

(iii) Abraham's sacrifice, with a central figure holding a sword across one shoulder and grasping the hair of Isaac, whose arms are extended above a rectangular altar; the small winged figure of the angel stands at the left.

(iv) The seated figure of Daniel between two rearing lions, with a lump which may be the head of another lion to the right.

This theme may continue in the side-arms, where two passant leonine beasts flank a central roundel with the seated Virgin and Child between four small angels, the upper ones forming a canopy. The top arm bears three pairs of back-to-back leonine beasts with intertwined tails.

I Fisher 2001.


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