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Bressay, Cullingsburgh

Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Ogham Inscribed Stone (Early Medieval)

Site Name Bressay, Cullingsburgh

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Ogham Inscribed Stone (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Bressay Stone; Cubinsgarth, St Mary's Church

Canmore ID 1279

Site Number HU54SW 12

NGR HU 521 423

NGR Description HU c. 521 423

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Bressay
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland


Bressay, Culbinsburgh, Shetland (St Mary), cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.22m, W 0.27m – 0.40m, D 0.06m

Stone type: chlorite schist

Place of discovery: c HU 521 423

Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (IB 109)

Evidence for discovery: found in the first half of the 19th century below ground-level near St Mary’s Church but outside the graveyard. It was taken first to Gardie House in Bressay, and thence to a churchyard about a mile to the south of Gardie House. In 1852 it was sent to Newcastle for exhibition, returned to Bressay and in 1864 presented to NMAS (ECMS pt 3: 5-6).

Present condition: some wear.


The cross-slab is carved in low relief on both main faces, and there is an ogham inscription along both narrow faces. Face A bears a cross within a circular frame; the arms of the cross have wide expanded terminals, and they, the centre of the cross and the spaces between the arms are filled with simple interlace. Above the cross two animal heads grasp a prone human body in their jaws. Below the cross two hooded clerics with crosiers and book satchels flank a figure riding a horse, and beside the face of the left-hand cleric is a simple incised cross which has been interpreted as representing a cross-slab (Kilpatrick 2011: 166). Below the clerics is a large animal, probably a lion, and below that a smaller animal, perhaps a pig.

Face C is carved with an interlaced cross-of-arcs within a circle surrounded by interlace and framed by another pair of beasts biting a human figure. Beneath the cross panel is one containing two confronted beasts, and beneath them a panel containing two hooded clerics with crosiers and book satchels.

Faces B and D are incised with a long inscription in ogham, which reads ‘the cross of Nadd Oddr’s daughter aNN [in memory of her husband] Benises son of Droan’. There is a degree of linguistic mixture, because the word for daughter is Norse, while those for cross and son are Gaelic. It has been suggested that the horseman on face A may represent Benises for whom the monument was set up (Scott & Ritchie 2009: 7).

Date: tenth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 5-10; DES 1997: 67; Trench-Jellicoe 2005: Scott & Ritchie 2009, no 54; Kilpatrick 2011, 164-7.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

HU54SW 12 c. 521 423.

(Area centred HU 521 423) The Bressay Stone is an upright cross-slab of chlorite schist, 3ft 9ins high, 1ft 4ins wide at the top, tapering to 1ft wide at the bottom, and 1 3/4ins thick, sculptured in relief on the two broad faces and with ogham inscriptions on the two narrow sides. This much-travelled stone is said to have been found in a waste piece of ground at Cubinsgarth near the old ruined church of St Mary (Shetland 53SE 5 - HU54SW 5).

It was presented to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1864 by the Rev Z M Hamilton, D D.

E Charlton 1854; Archaeol J 1855; Stuart 1856; J R Allen 1903; RCAHMS 1946.

No further information.

Visited by OS (NKB) 16 May 1968.

This stone remains in the NMAS.

{Undated] information in NMRS.


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