Kilmartin Scotland

Kilmartin Church & Large Cross, Scotland

This is the last post on Kilmartin, Scotland 2016, for this year, hopefully we will return next year to visit the sites of a much earlier period than the stone crosses and churchyard of Kilmartin Church.   I have saved the best to last, well I think so, ‘The Large Cross’.  One of the most magnificent medieval stone crosses in the West Highlands.  Carved about 1200, on side is the robed Christ sitting with arms raised to show his wounds.  On the other side is the crucified Christ with a winged lion, symbol of St Mark, to his left, and angel for St Matthew above and a winged bull for St Luke below.

 

 

Taken from one of the notice boards……..This cross is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent of the great crosses carved in the Western Highlands in the Middle Ages.  Its form is unusual for the area, and the quadrant brackets which originally helped to support the widely projecting arms must have given it something of the appearance of a wheel-headed cross.  Until recent years only the shaft and side arm were known to survive, but in 1973 the upper arm was found built into a culvert.  The three pieces have been secured together in what is thought to have their correct relationship, with out attempting to replace the missing parts for which there is no evidence.

The cross originally stood 400 metres away, but was later moved to the Kilmartin graveyard.  The arm which was found in the culvert, was fixed back when the cross was brought inside.

The following photos are from a display inside the church.

The shaft and arm of the cross in the graveyard of Kilmartin Church.

The top arm of the cross replaced back onto the shaft.

The reserve side of the cross, once the top arm was fixed back to the shaft.

A little history on Kilmartin Parish Church………..On the site of earlier churches, the present building opened in 1835. The architect was James Gordon Davis. The church is Gothic in style with nave, aisles and a square tower. Three interesting memorial panels from the 18th and 19th centuries to members of the family of Campbell of Duntroon. The church has two outstanding early Christian crosses, with explanatory panels provided by Historic Scotland. The kirkyard contains the mausoleum of Bishop Neil Campbell and medieval tomb slabs. Extensive views over Bronze Age burial cairns, a photo shows one at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

 

The Small Cross, Kilmartin, Scotland

Inside Kilmartin Church, Kilmartin, Scotland, there are three medieval crosses.  The Kilmartin Cross which I have posted about and two others, the Large Ring Cross and the Small Cross.  This post is about the Small Cross which stood in the graveyard from about the 1400’s.  Its style matches that of another cross, The Kilmichael Cross, which is displayed in the Kilmartin Museum next door. (I have also posted about this one)

The photo shows the cross in the churchyard where it had stood since 1400.  This fragment of cross is unusual in the curious volute forms which have been carved as angle brackets to support the side arms.  The representation of the crucified figure is perhaps rather stiff an crude, and does look very similar to the Kilmichael Cross.  Dating from the 1300’s or 1400’s it could be attributed to a group of stone carvers working in the area around Loch Awe.  All three cross stood in the graveyard, but have since been brought into the church to protect them from the elements.  A post on the Large Cross will follow shortly.

From a visit in 2016

Kilmartin Museum, Kilmartin, Scotland

After we had visited Kilmartin Churchyard and Church, Scotland (I have yet to post) in 2016, we visited the Museum.  The Museum collects and cares for all of the archaeological objects that are found, by chance or excavation in Mid Argyll.   This is really only a taste of what is in the museum, as we were running out of time, but there are a few interesting items that I found.  A little bit about Kilmartin before we go any further …..Kilmartin Glen, in the heart of Mid Argyll, is one of Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscapes. Over 800 historic monuments, cairns, standing stones, stone circles and rock art dating back over 5000 years have been recorded within this area. It just helps to understand why the museum is there.  So the following is just a short trip around the museum.

The above is a copy and the original is in the National Museums of Scotland.  A Carved Slab, Neither Largie North Cairn 4,000 – 1.600 BC….. People may have carved this simple design long before the slab was incorporated into Nether Largie North Cairn.  The below photo from the museum, shows how it was found in 1930, standing upright on the ground surface with the cairn material.

The above stone is again a copy of the Stone Cross, Achadh na Cille, Oibmore, Knapdale 8th-10th centuryAD, which is now in the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.  One of seven crosses from this site, three of which are still inlace.  It is not possible to give an exact date for the cross, but the earliest ringed crosses are 8th century.  The early Christian crosses from Mid Argyll vary greatly in style.  The first crosses may have been of wood, or even wattle.  The photo show the front and back view of the cross.

This last photo show a carved limestone cross fragment from Kilbride and this is the original article.  It was found at the thirteenth century chapel of Kilbride, the church of  St Brigit, now a derelict building near Kilmartin.  The cross fragment dates to the 9th century, which indicates there was already an ecclesiastical presence on the site when the chapel was constructed.  The spirals and voluted trumpets of the carving are a common theme in early Christian sculpture.

The above photo was just a quick photo of the cottages across the road from the museum, and generally is of the type of buildings in the village as a whole.

May 2016 – Kilmartin

 

 

The Antiquity of Kilmartin Churchyard, Scotland

 

Kilmartin Parish Church stands in the centre of  Kilmartin Glen, and just south down the glen, are a profusion of prehistoric remains, including a linear cemetery, numerous standing stones, and several sites with cup and ring carved rocks.  But for me, it was the graveyard and church that lured me in to explore this ancient site.   You can see the church from the road, and in 2014 we didn’t have time to visit, but in May of 2016, we did.  You know when you see sometime, and you hold your breath, think wow, this is going to be amazing, thats what I felt when we walked through the arch to explore.

I have already posted about some of the stones, those thought to be most at risk from weathering, under cover of a former mausoleum building at the rear of the churchyard, this post is of what is still in situ in the graveyard.

Together with the sub-circular form of the church graveyard, the stones hint at a much longer history of religious activity at Kilmartin, ranging in date from the 900’s to the 1600’s. 

 

 

 I think most of the mediaeval grave slabs in the raised enclosure, photos above, beautifully carved slabs that once covered the graves of members of the Malcolm family, are from St Columba’s Chapel in Poltalloch, which have been move to Kilmartin.  Many of the stones were the work of a group of sculptors working in the Loch Awe area through the 14th and 15th centuries.  The carvers may have had a workshop at Kilmartin itself or in the surrounding area.  The quality of the carvings of the highest order, and the designs are similar to others in the West Highlands, such as Kilberry, Keills, and Kilmory Knap.

I found an early Christian Stone with a cross very similar to the one I found on Tiree, a Hebridean Island, but as yet I haven’t found any information on it.

The above slabs are still in situ and have wonderful symbols on them.

I will post about the museum, church and the two remain stone crosses later.  It is worth a visit before going off down the Glen to visit the more well known sites.  

Kilmartin Cross, Kilmartin Church, Scotland

Inside the parish church of Kilmartin, Scotland, which we visited in May 2016, there are three wonderful ancient stone crosses, this post is about the early Christian cross called ‘ The Kilmartin Cross’, which was created in about AD 900.  It has short cross-arms and is intricately carved with a diagonal key pattern.  At its centre is an unusual curled diagonal cross, with almond-shaped frames above and below.  The cross was found laying in the churchyard in 1860, with one of the arms snapped off.  The cross was re-erected near the entrance and was brought inside in 1977.  There is a black and white photo of the cross when it was standing near the entrance to the church.  Also there is a front and back to the cross, as according to the information board below, one side was later decorated to fit the broken shape, as you can see in the photo following the information board.   The next post will be about ‘The Large Cross’.

 

Killmartin Grave Slabs, Scotland

The information board invites you to step into this burial aisle for a glimpse of the Gaelic warrior culture that dominated the West Highlands in the Middle Ages….. and so we did, last May 2016.  Kilmartin is a small village in Western Scotland, famous for Kilmartin Glen, where there are over 320 prehistoric monuments in a six mile radius.  But for me, the graveyard of the village church holds untold stories of buried Highlanders, which got my imagination working overtime.  These grave slabs were collected from the graveyard, but there are still more grave slabs to be seen.  There are also historic crosses inside the church and next door you will find a museum that will tell you the story of the Glen.  This post is to show the grave slabs, that now stand side by side.

A little history for you……..Originally, the 23 stones would have been laid flat on the ground to cover a grave. After the Reformation, however, many of the stones were moved, and in 1956 they were moved inside a shelter to protect them from the weather. The symbolism of the motifs carved onto the slabs is the subject of much discussion and speculation. Many feature swords or claymores, some alone, others with surrounding designs of twining or interlaced foliage. Several depict armed men. 

The structure was originally built as a burial aisle for Neil Campbell and his wife Christiane in 1627. Neil Campbell became Bishop of Argyll, while Christiane was the daughter of Bishop John Carswell, who built nearby Carnasserie Castle in the late 1660s. Since 1956 their mausoleum has served as a lapidarium, sheltering the best of the medieval graveslabs identified in the churchyard.

More about Kilmartin to follow.

 

Kilmichael Cross, Kilmartin Museum, Scotland

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One of the places that we wanted to visit on our May 2016 holiday to Scotland, was Kilmartin.  Kilmartin Village is best known as the centre of Kilmartin Glen, an area with one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments and historical sites in Scotland. It contains over 350 monuments within a 6 mile radius.  There is a very good museum that will guide you through some of the sites that you will see in the surrounding countryside. We were visiting the museum, church and churchyard on this visit, and also to have lunch in the lovely restaurant on site, in their beautiful courtyard garden.

After lunch I paid for a trip around the museum, that was after I had dragged myself out the wonderful little museum shop, with so many beautiful books on Scotland.  I have lots, but there is always room for more, I bought the guide for Kilmartin and it has everything you need to explore the prehistoric monuments.  Entering the museum, which is in the old rectory, I very nearly passed a cross, I thought it was a copy, until I read the information board…..it was the real thing.  I have added a photo of the board for you to read, and then you realise how precious it is and how lucky we are, to be able to stand and look at it……..more crosses to follow.

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