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Dunkeld, Dunkeld Cathedral, 'apostles' Stone'

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Dunkeld, Dunkeld Cathedral, 'apostles' Stone'

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Dunkeld No 2

Canmore ID 79388

Site Number NO04SW 1.10

NGR NO 0237 4259

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Dunkeld And Dowally
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire


Dunkeld 2, Apostles Stone, Perthshire, cross-slab fragment

Measurements: H 1.47m, W 0.76m, D 0.34m

Stone type: grey sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 0237 4259

Present location: in the Chapter House Museum at Dunkeld Cathedral.

Evidence for discovery: in use as a gatepost at the entrance to the churchyard in the mid nineteenth century and moved to stand close to the south wall of the cathedral by the end of the century. It was later taken into the chapter house.

Present condition: very worn, with extensive damage at the top and along the left-hand edge of face A.


This massive rectangular slab is carved in relief on faces A to D. Face A appears to have borne a cross, probably occupying the length and breadth of the slab, but its shape is reduced to the underside of the side arms and a cusped lower arm merging into a wider shaft. Both the cross and the background were heavily ornamented, mostly with figural themes. There is a horseman in the right arm, riding towards the centre of the cross-head where there appears to have been another horseman. Four figures occupy the lower arm, and the shaft has traces of five registers of ornament including both human figures and animals. Face B has at least four registers of ornament, depicting a horsemen riding to the left, above a large cloaked and hooded frontal human figure beside a thick post or crosier, above three hooded frontal figures and another register below where the ornament is too worn to identify. Face C bears four registers of ornament, the top containing at least twenty-two severed heads arranged in rows, with a large circular object and a large figure on the left. Below are the twelve frontal figures attributed to the apostles, arranged in two rows with a wide moulding between them. The basal panel contains very worn traces of perhaps five figures. Face D is badly defaced but a three-cord spiral and traces of other ornament survive.

Date: tenth century.

References: Stuart 1856, pl 50; ECMS pt 3, 317-19

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NO04SW 1.10 0237 4259.

This fragment of an upright cross-slab, known as the 'Apostles' Stone', is the lower part of what may have been an appreciably taller monument; measuring 1.47m in height, 0.76m in width and 0.34m in thickness, it bears decoration on all four faces. It had formerly been used as a gate-post at the entrance to the churchyard and was described by Allen in 1903 as then standing on the S side of the cathedral; it has since been moved to the Chapter House.

It is likely that the decoration on the front of the slab was originally contained within a cross, but only the recesses beneath the arms are now clearly visible, and, because much of the left side was destroyed when the gate-jamb was cut, the layout of this face is not clear. The decoration is now very worn but appears to comprise: a horseman (in the right arm of the cross) riding behind another; a line of four men; three prostrate figures; a man with his arms raised in the 'orans' position flanked by pairs of beasts (probably Daniel in the den of the lions); at the bottom, a further row of figures. In the recess beneath the right arm of the cross there is a beast with its tail interlaced between its legs; the carving in the left recess is too damaged to interpret. The back of the stone is carved with panels of figures and heads. The two central rows contain six standing figures (some bearded) in each row (hence the popular attribution to the Apostles); above, there are at least twenty-two heads (many bearded) as well as a circular and two horizontal features; the lowest panel seems to contain five figures. Taken together, the panels possibly represent the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

The carving on the right-hand side includes a figure on horseback, a cowled figure and a row of three men; all that survives on the left side is a fragment of spiral ornament.

Information from RCAHMS (JRS) 4 December 1992.


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