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Date 2001

Event ID 923363

Category Documentary Reference

Type Reference


The medieval chapel of St Mahew is situated at Kirkton of Kilmahew, about 1km NW of Cardross and 1.3km from the N shore of the Firth of Clyde. The chapel, which was mentioned in two charters of the 14th century, was largely rebuilt in 1467 and was restored for Roman Catholic worship in 1953-5 (a). It stands in a small burial-ground and comprises a narrow nave which was extended to the W in 1953-5, and a wider and almost square 15th-century chancel. A cross-marked stone and a slotted slab which may have been associated with a shrine were found buried outside the N wall of the nave in 1955 and are now in the chapel (b).

(1) Irregular slab of fine-grained buff sandstone whose broken foot is concealed in a modern timber socket. It is 0.37m in visible height by 110mm in thickness and is 0.42m wide at the sloping top, from which it tapers, curving at the left, to the foot. One face bears an equal-armed cross, 0.19m in height and span, with expanded terminals which are best defined in the top and left arms. The cross has been pecked to form shallow and irregular V-section grooves, and a later incision runs down the shaft.

(D MacRoberts 1955, 6-7; C A R Radford 1966, 4-6).

(2) Worn and irregular slotted slab of sandstone which was reconstructed by Radford as the broken end of a cover-slab from a composite stone shrine. However the rough tooling and slight thickening at the break suggest that this area was concealed and that the slab was a vertical end-slab into which two side-slabs were fitted. It measures 0.7m in width by 0.45m in maximum height and 0.18m in maximum thickness. Its centre is tapered and recessed on both faces between two rectangular angle-posts whose tops rise about 40mm above the centre and slope down to the sides. These posts incorporate the slots, which are 0.5m apart at the top but are inclined so that they are only 0.43m apart at the foot. They are about 60mm wide and 40mm deep, and that to the left is 0.24m high but the other only 0.19m. They have been pecked out with a pointed tool or pick and similar marks survive on the recessed central panel, which is 0.25m high above a thicker base, now broken. The top edge of this panel bears a double-beaded twist with square ends (RA 501), and one of the angle-posts preserves a square fret with a continuous band forming four triangles (RA 724).

Radford reported the discovery in 1955 of another small fragment, about 100mm thick and bearing traces of interlace, and of two slabs which had been set at the sides of a grave with the slotted slab at the head. The two slabs were recorded in 1978 but their present location is not known. They were of local grey sandstone and measured respectively 0.92m by 0.46m and 70mm thick, and 0.61m by 0.36m and 65mm thick. There was no evidence that they had been provided with tenons to fit into the slots, or that their association with the end-slab was anything but secondary.

It is possible that the slotted slab was indeed designed as part of a kerb round a grave rather than an enclosed shrine, since there is no obvious provision for a cover-slab and the inclination of the slots is puzzling. Against this may be set the apparent derivation of a type of slab found at Govan, Inchinnan and Kingarth (No.6(4)) from a corner-post shrine with decorated cover (c).


(a) OPS 1851, 26-7; D MacRoberts, 1955; D MacRoberts 1961, 42-3; C A R Radford 1966, 3-10.

(b) Radford, op.cit., 4.

(c) A Ritchie 1994, 114-15.

C A R Radford 1966, 3-4, 6-9; C A R Radford 1968, 121.

I Fisher 2001, 83-4.

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