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Mass Howe, St Nicholas's Church

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Mass Howe, St Nicholas's Church

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Holm; Graemeshall Chapel; Old Parish Church Of Evie

Canmore ID 260123

Site Number HY40SE 8.01

NGR HY 485 020

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Holm
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney


St Nicholas’ Church, Holm, Orkney, recumbent cross-slab

Measurements: L 1.42m, W 0.44m tapering to 0.33m at the foot

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: HY 5104 0063

Present location: St Margaret’s Chapel, Graemeshall, Holm.

Evidence for discovery: found in the floor of St Nicholas’ Church during repair work in 1893, and subsequently taken to the new private chapel at Graemeshall.

Present condition: very worn.


The slab has been shaped and carved on one broad face in low relief with a flatband moulding along the edges and an almost central cross. The latter consists of an equal-armed cross-head on a narrow shaft on a square base. The cross is outlined with roll moulding, and the side-arms overlap the edge moulding (there is no bar between the shaft and the base as shown in ECMS). The centre of the cross-head is square, thus forming stepped and closed armpits. It is clear that the cross was entirely filled with various forms of interlace, but the carving inside the upper, left-hand and lower arms, as well as the central panel, is very worn and difficult to make out. The ornament in the right-hand arm consists of a circle interlaced by a four-loop cord, the shaft is filled with triangular interlace enclosing central lozenges and the base with symmetrical triquetra knots in a cruciform pattern.

Date: tenth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 21-3; RCAHMS 1946, no 359, fig 152; Fisher 2002, 45-7; Scott & Ritchie 2014, no 25.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2017

Archaeology Notes

HY40SE 8.01 485 020

(Temporary record: The National Museum of Scotland's database of early medieval sculpture lists a cross-slab at Graemeshall Chapel, Holm. No further detail is available at present.)

Information from RCAHMS (IFr), 16 June 2004.


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