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Publication Account

Date 1987

Event ID 1016944

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/1016944

Traditionally known as St Orland's Stone, this impressive slab stands to a height of almost 3 m on a low rounded knoll; it was set up in the late 8th or early 9th century, and there are old records of stone cist-graves having been found close by. Its location suggests that it marked a boundary in the same way as the comparable cross-slab at Aberlemno (no. 69), as well as acting as a focus for burials. Eleven hundred years of weathering in this exposed position have damaged the sculptor's work, but this is nevertheless a particularly interesting stone, chiefly for its rare carving of a boat

The entire length of the face of the slab is taken up by a ring-headed cross with a splayed base; ingeniously, the sculptor has carved the cross on two levels of relief so as to give a three-dimensional impression of a freestanding cross. The soft sandstone has allowed the creation of intricate spiral and interlace patterns over both levels of the cross, and an empty circular depression at the centre of its head may originally have held a decorative metal plaque. It seems likely that the knoll on which the monument stands was formerly surrounded by waterlogged marsh, and it is therefore very appropriate that the cross is itself surrounded by interlaced fish-monsters.

Two more fish-tailed beasts form a frame round the reverse side of the slab, enclosing, at the top, a crescent and V-rod and a double disc and Z-rod and figural panels below. An intriguing problem is posed by the central panel with its neatly cut recess: has some powerful symbol been deliberately removed? It must have been something important, for it had its own special decorative frame, open at the top as if to signify some connection with the symbols above. Below are two horsemen, each with a saddlecloth, and below them another pair of horsemen accompanied by two hunting dogs. Next comes the boat, a long vessel with upturned prow and stem, carrying at least four people and some large object in the prow. Unlike the boat carved in Jonathan's Cave (no. 78), no oars are depicted here, nor is there a sail. At the foot of the slab are carved two battling animals, one homed and the other cat-like, with pronounced claws and furiously arched back.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

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