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Field Visit

Date March 1987

Event ID 1082788

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


This fine late-medieval cross stands on a three-stepped pedestal on the NE side of Front Street, on the axis of Main Street and a few metres from the sea-wall of Loch Fyne. It may originally have stood at the medieval church of Kilmalieu (No. 65), but was subsequently erected as the market cross of Old Inveraray (No. 199) on an octagonal pilastered structure of 17th-century character, shown in Paul Sandby's drawing of 1746. It was presumably in this position when the inscription of 'Inverara Cross' was recorded by Lhuyd in 1699, and its base was dismantled about 1775.Following a period of neglect, it was re-erected on its present site in 1839 (en.1).

The cross is of chlorite-schist of Loch Sween type, and measures 1.54m in visible height, and 0.57m across the arms. Its shaft tapers in width from 0.33m at the foot to 0.24m below the cross-head, and in thickness from 110mm to 100mm. The cross-head is of cross-patonce type with deep circular armpits forming squarish lugs at the junction with the shaft, and the top arm is of fleur-de-lis outline, whereas the central portions of the side terminals are rounded and of slight projection. The angle-rolls framing the ornamented edges of the shaft are continued in the cross-head as half-rolls which do not extend on to the edges. The present SE edge of the shaft bears an undulating leaf-stem terminating at the foot in a dragon's head, which closely resembles the edge ornament of the Campbeltown Cross (en.2), while the opposite edge bears the following two-line inscription in neatly formed Lombardic capitals, completed in two short lines at the foot of the SW face (en.3):





'This is the cross of noble men, namely, Duncanus MacCowan, Patricius, his son, and Mael-Moire, son of Patricius, who caused this cross to be made'.

The front or SW face evidently contained in the cross-head a figure of the crucified Saviour which, as in the Campbeltown Cross, has been carefully cut away, the loss being concealed by the carving of additional stems in the surrounding foliage. At the top of the shaft is a cusped niche from which a figure, perhaps of a donor, has been similarly removed, followed by plant-scrolls and then a group of animals including a boar pursued by a hound, and at the foot a horseman with a hawk on his wrist, above the final lines of the inscription. On the back of the cross the top arm showed a figure of St Michael, which has been almost erased except for the dragon on which he stood. At the centre of the cross-head there is a foliated cross, incorporating in the left arm a fantastic quadruped, and linked in the shaft to elegant intertwined plant-stems interrupted by two squares of plaitwork. The cross is a product of the Iona school, and its close resemblance to the Campbeltown Cross of about 1380 indicates a date in the late 14th or early 15th century. Other members of the MacCowan family (Mac Gille-Chomgdin,'son of the servant of St Comgan') witnessed a Glassary charter of about 1350, and it has been suggested that the three generations recorded on the cross belonged to the succeeding period, so that the grandson Mael-Moire ('servant of theVirgin Mary') who erected the cross may have been active in the first half of the 15th century (en.4).

RCAHMS 1992, visited March 1987

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