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Crail, Marketgate, Crail Parish Church

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Crail, Marketgate, Crail Parish Church

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Church Of Scotland; Collegiate Kirk; St Mary's

Canmore ID 319290

Site Number NO60NW 2.03

NGR NO 61339 07976

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Crail
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Crail 1 (St Maelrubha), Fife, cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.91m, W 0.76m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 61339 07976

Present location: at Crail Parish Church.

Evidence for discovery: re-used as a paving stone in the church after 1815, and recorded around 1850 by Stuart. By c 1890 it had been lifted and set into the west wall of the tower.

Present condition: very worn. Top and bottom of the slab have been trimmed.


Visible is face A of a cross-slab carved in relief. The cross is equal-armed on a short shaft and is ringed only above the level of the side-arms. The base of the shaft appears to be carried on the shoulders of a sturdy and naked man with no visible head. There are traces of interlace within the cross and of key pattern on the ring. Quadrupeds and other figures fill the background to the cross. An armorial panel has been cut at the base of the stone but the lower part of it is missing.

Date: tenth or eleventh century.

References: Stuart 1856, pl 64: ECMS pt 3, 363-4.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016


Field Visit (13 June 1927)

A finely sculptured cross-slab, which has evidently been used again in the later 16th century, is built against the inner face of the wall at the west entrance. The slab is roughly rectangular, standing 6 feet 3 inches above the pavement and measuring 2 feet 6 ½ inches across the base, 2 feet 1 ½ inches across at the top. Except for a panel 11 inches square at the bottom of the dexter side, it is covered with sculptures in relief. In the centre is a cross of Celtic design, on the horizontal arms of which rests a hood or ‘glory’ ornamented with a key pattern. The cross head in four arms of equal size is ornamented with interlaced work, but the lower limb is continued downwards in a narrower shaft, which is ornamented with a key-pattern and appears to be supported on the shoulders of a nude human figure with upraised arms. Below the figure is a recessed panel of later date, bearing a shield with a chevron in relief. At the intersection of the arms of the cross is the head of a long beaked bird with the body now more or less obliterated. In each of the upper corners of the stone is a small serpent, and between the hood and the intersection a fish-like creature. Below the arms of the cross are, on the dexter side, six figures, one below the other, thus: (a) Uncertain; (b) a lamb; (c) an ass; (d) a bird perched on the back of (e) another animal; and (f) a winged animal (? dragon) : on the sinister side, four figures; (a) a harper on a high-backed chair; (b) a horseman; and (c) and (d) two indecipherable figures of animals. (See Early Christian Monts., p. 363; and Stuart's Sculptured Stones, vol. i, pl. 64.)

Another mediaeval slab has been fixed on the inner side of the chancel gable. It measures 5 feet 7 ½ inches by 2 feet 4 inches and has an incised margin containing a six-rayed roundel in each of the three angles that remain, and a Latin cross with graduated base; from the lower edge of the cross arms two incised lines, ending in lozenges, run downwards and outwards. Beneath the cross is a chalice with a knob surmounted by a star-shaped wafer. At a later time the initials D.W. and I.E. have been cut on either side of the cross-shaft.

Opposite the last is a fragment of a later slab, the present dimensions of which are 2 feet 7 ½ inches in width by 3 feet in height. There has been a marginal inscription, now missing at the foot and partially obliterated at the top, where the only words legible are: HIC . IACET . VIRGO. HE ... - SARNIS . OBIIT . AN[NO]. The centre of the slab is occupied by a shield flanked by the initials E.C. and bearing the Cunningham arms, as represented on the oak panel already described above. Below the shield are inscribed the words: ALTHOH . THE . VORMS . MY . FLESH . EAT. IN . THIS. PLACE. ZIT . I . SAL . SE. MY[GOD].*

COPED TOMBSTONE. [DP 262541] At the entrance to the churchyard lies the upper part of a fine coped tombstone, probably of the later 13th century. It is 1 foot 6 inches broad and has a present length of 2 feet 2 inches. The uppermost surface is shaped to fit the cross-shaft and nimbus, which are incised. The shaft has two incised ribs linked at the top. The nimbus contains a cross-head with a voided lozenge shaped centre and lozenge-ended limbs. Between each limb is a penannular ornament with expanded ends. On the dexter side of the tombstone is a sword with depressed quillons and lozenge-shaped pommel; on the sinister side is an open book.

RCAHMS 1933, visited 13 June 1927.

*An adaptation of Job, xix, 26.

Field Visit (8 July 1957)

The description of the sculptured cross given by RCAHMS will be better understood by reference to the illustration in RCAHMS. The drawing reproduced on reverse of this card would appear to be a rather free interpretation, and does not show 'four arms of equal size'.

Visited by OS (CJP) 8 July 1957


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