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Fowlis Wester, Cross

Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Fowlis Wester, Cross

Classification Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Alternative Name(s) Cross Of Fowlis; Fowlis Wester Church; Fowlis Wester Cross

Canmore ID 26193

Site Number NN92SW 5

NGR NN 92777 24041

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Fowlis Wester
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project (18 May 2016)

Fowlis Wester 1 (St Beanus), Perthshire, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 3.15m, W 0.84m to 0.53m at the top, D 0.15m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NN 9277 2404

Present location: within church at Fowlis Wester (replica on site)

Evidence for discovery: recorded by Skene as set in a triple-stepped stone plinth in the village square in the early nineteenth century, complete with iron jougs chain fixed to the top of the shaft of the cross on face A. Later that century it was surrounded by raised paving and enclosed by an iron railing. It was moved into the church in 1991.

Present condition: very weathered.


This imposing cross-slab is carved in relief on both broad faces. Face A is framed by a flatband moulding and dominated by an equal-armed cross with double-squared armpits set on a long shaft. The side arms of the cross extend beyond the edges of the slab by about 60mm but the upper arm stops well short of the top. There is a central square panel, which contains eight spiral bosses arranged around a central slightly larger boss. All four arms contain diagonal key pattern, while the shaft has an upper panel of loose interlace above what appears to be a seething mass of intertwined animals or birds. The background to the cross is plain, except above the top arm where there are traces of another intertwined zoomorphic motif. Face C is carved with a single panel of symbols and figures within a plain flatband moulding. At the top there is a large double disc and Z-rod flying above a large horse (with disproportionately small head) and rider trotting to the left. An equally large hound pads along below the horseman, accompanied by two small hounds, and below again are two horse-riders side by side, all facing left. Beneath the horses a figure in a long tunic leads a cow with a bell round its neck, followed by six armed warriors marching abreast. The basal part of the panel is occupied by a crescent and V-rod with spiral decoration, a large bird and a monster devouring a human figure, along with smaller motifs no longer intelligible.

Date: eighth or ninth century.

References: Skene 1832, 9; ECMS pt 3, 289-90; Fraser 2008, no 182.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NN92SW 5 92777 24041

(NN 9278 2404) Cross (NR).

OS 6" map, (1958).

Not to be confused with NN92SW 29 (stone within churchyard).

An upright cross-slab sculptured in relief on two faces with a cross, symbols and interlaced work, stands within a iron railing. An exceptional feature of the stone is the projecting arms of the cross extending beyond the slab (J R Allen and J Anderson 1903)

A fine cross-slab, 10ft high, with Pictish symbols, figure and animal sculpture, and Celtic enrichment.

J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; V G Childe and W D Simpson 1961.

As described above.

Visited by OS (R D) 12 December 1966.

In 1991, the stone was removed into the adjacent church (NN92SW 7); the area around the stone was excavated and it was intended to erect a replica.

Information from Perthshire Advertiser, 23 August 1991.

The removal of the cross-slab to the nearby church (NN92SW 7) was preceded by an investigation of the stone's setting within the centre of the village.

It was evident that the stone had been moved on a previous occasion, having been secured within its 1.06m long, 0.40m wide and 0.85m deep socket with well-compacted mortared rubble, probably from a demolished post-reformation building.

J Lewis 1991.

The Class II Pictish cross-slab is preserved within the parish church NN92SW 7, having been moved in August 1991. A full-size replica of the stone stands in the railed enclosure in the village square.

The cross-slab is of Old Red Sandstone, measuring 3.15m in height and from 0.11m to 0.15m in thickness. The faces taper upwards from 0.83m at ground level to 0.53m at the tip, and the two horizontal arms of the cross project 50mm beyond the edges of the slab. The sculpture is in relief on both faces and is described in accordance with the numbering sequence of Allan and Anderson:

Front: In the centre, but not extending quite to the top of the slab, there is a cross of shape No.98A, divided into five panels containing: (1) in the middle of the head of the cross, eight raised spiral bosses arranged round a central spiral boss; (2) on the top arm, defaced ornament; (3 and 4) on the right and left arms a diagonal key-pattern of Allen's type No.971, much obliterated; (5) on the bottom arm, defaced ornament; and (5A) on the shaft, traces of interlaced work, birds and beasts. An iron chain is fixed in the middle of the shaft at a height of 1.88m above the ground. The background of the cross is divided into three panels, all plain except the one round the upper arm, which has a figure at the top, but too worn for its character to be made out.

Back: A single panel, containing from the top; first, the double disc and Z-shaped rod symbol; then, one below, a horseman, a beast, two horsemen riding abreast (one having a hawk on his arm), and a cow with a bell round its neck, the last led by a man and followed by a procession of six other men; beneath this group, on the left, is the crescent and V-rod symbol, and on the right a bird; and at the bottom of the slab, a man being apparently devoured by a beast.

The exceptional features in the Fowlis Wester stone are the projecting arms of the cross, and the group of figures with the cow, perhaps referring to the worship of the Golden Calf or to a legend connected with some local saint. The subject may be compared with those on the stones at St Vigeans (NO64SW 3, no.7), at Eassie (NO34NE 3), and at Woodwray (NO55NW 6), all in Angus.

Visited by RCAHMS (IF, JRS), 9 November 1995.

J R Allen and J Anderson 1903.

Class II symbol stone with the cross on the face. On the reverse is a double-disc above a double-disc and Z-rod. Below are mounted figures, with a hawk, and a cow with walking figures. Underneath are to the left a crescent and V-rod and to the right an eagle.

A Mack 1997.

(Former index no. 90149). Descheduled.

Information from Historic Scotland, Certificate of Excluision from Schedule dated 31 March 2011.


Publication Account (1987)

The first is a tall, elegantly tapering slab, over 3 m above its modem plinth; in later times its role in village life included punishment, for an iron chain fixed to the cross-shaft probably attached the jougs or collar by which an offender might be held on public view. An unusual feature is the protruding arms of the cross: the two horizontal arms extend some 6 cm from the sides of the slab as an optical device to convey the impression of a free-standing cross. This is unique in Pictish art, but the device was used in Ireland and here perhaps betrays Irish influence. Unfortunately, the effects of weathering have all but obliterated the details of what was once a fine example of the sculptor's skill. Traces of interlace decoration survive on the shaft of the cross, key-patterning on the anus, and an arrangement of eight bosses round a central boss fills the centre of the cross-head. The back of the slab bore two insignificantly small symbols, a double disc and Z-rod at the top and a crescent and V-rod bottom left, together with horsemen, animals and a unique scene showing a man leading a cow with a bell round its neck, followed by a line of six bearded men walking abreast.

Inside the church is another cross-slab, lacking symbols and dating to the 9th century. It had been built into the fabric of the church and is therefore better preserved than the one on the village green. The carving is confined to one side and depicts a ring-headed cross on a splayed base, decorated with interlace, spirals and key-pattern. Motifs filling the background include Jonah being swallowed by the whale, two clerics seated on finely depicted chairs (note the animal-headed chairback on the left), and four standing figures in decorative robes. This stone is notable for the rich detail of its carving. The church itself was built originally in the 13th century and was attractively restored early this century.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).


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