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Tarbat Parish Church

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Tarbat Parish Church

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Tarbat West Church

Canmore ID 15637

Site Number NH98SW 14.01

NGR NH 9149 8402

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Tarbat
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Portmahomack, Tarbat 1 (TR 1), Ross and Cromarty, Pictish cross-slab fragment

Measurements: H 0.65m, W 1.10m, D 0.15m

Stone type: yellow sandstone

Place of discovery: NH 9149 8402

Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (X.IB.190)

Evidence for discovery: found lying in the churchyard sometime before about 1850, when it was taken to Invergordon Castle and erected beside the drive leading from the Castle to the church. A larger fragment of the stone is said to have been used in a grave in Tarbat churchyard.

Present condition: damaged and worn, and face C has sheared off.


This is the lower part of a cross-slab with part of its tenon. It is carved in relief on the surviving broad face and on the two narrow faces, each contained within a plain flat-band moulding. Face A has an inner figurative panel within a flat-band moulding separating it from a wide border of vine-scroll inhabited by animals. The inner panel contains several animals and a pipe-playing human figure in profile.

Narrow face B is filled with an interlace pattern, while face D has at the foot an animal and above there are three symbols: a serpent and Z-rod beneath a tuning-fork, and a crescent and V-rod.

Although face C has sheared off, it has been suggested that Tarbat 4 may have been part of a cross carved in relief on this face (Carver et al 2016, illus 5.3.51).

Date range: eighth century.

Primary references: Stuart 1856, pl 30; ECMS pt 3, 73-5; Henderson 2008, 190-2; Carver et al 2016, 123, 125, 160, D42.

Desk-based information compiled by A Ritchie 2018

Archaeology Notes

NH98SW 14 9149 8402

(NH 9140 8402) Danish Cross (NR) (Site of)

OS 6" map, Ross-shire, 2nd ed., (1907)

The site of a Danish Cross, fragments of which are to be seen in the church. There is no record of when it was broken or removed.

Name Book 1872.

Eleven fragments of sculptured stones belonging to Allen's Class III have been found from time to time in Tarbat churchyard. Some are supposed to have formed part of a cross which formerly stood in the centre of the churchyard. The cross is alleged to have been demolished by a grave-digger and broken up for gravestones c. 1806, but this seems to be an error as the fragments were noted by Cordiner in 1776.

Eight of the fragments are preserved at Invergordon Castle, one is in Tarbat church and the remaining two are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS, Accession nos IB 130 & 131). The New Statistical Account (NSA) states that "a low green mound adjoining the E gable of the church" is the site where the cross stood. This agrees with the OS published entry, but not with Allen.

C Cordiner 1776; NSA 1845; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903.

Six of the stones were donated to the NMAS in 1958. (Accession nos: IB 280-5).

Information from NMAS accessions index.

A series of drawings of early medieval carved stones was created, forming a 'visual index' for deposition in the NMRS, with supporting material, of:

NH 914 840 Excavations at Tarbat (Tarbat parish)

Sponsor: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

I G Scott 1997


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