Canna, Cross, and Camel

Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate L, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate L, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate LI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Sculpted cross at Canna, Plate LI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

The island of Canna, along with the islands of Eigg, Muck, and Rum, form the parish of Small Isles, in Inverness-shire.

The church of Canna, dedicated to St. Columba, stood about the centre of the island, in the bottom of a narrow glen. There are two burying-grounds close to each other. In the older one, now disused, are traces of the old church. In it also stands the sculptured cross here figured.

St. Columba's Church, Canna.
St. Columba’s Church, Canna.

Unlike most of the crosses of the Western Highlands and Islands, the monument is formed of yellow sandstone. It is cruciform in shape, and is about six and a half feet in height.

East side of Celtic cross at Canna.
East side of Celtic cross at Canna.

Isin bliadain sin tucad in camall, quod est animal mírae magnitudinis, o ríg Alban do Muircertach U Briain

Annals of Innisfallen, I1105.7.

On the east side of the remaining limb of the cross is a well-sculptured camel, of which there is no other example on our Scotch crosses.1 That this creature was not, however, unknown in Scotland in early times, we may gather from an entry in the Annals of Innisfallen, which, under the year 1105, records, “In this year a camel, which is an animal of wonderful size, was presented by the King of Alban [Edgar] to Mucertac O’Brian.” Some of the knotted work and patterns are the same as those on the early crosses on the east coast, but the figures of men and beasts on the east face are of a different contour, and the design and general idea of the monument is peculiar.

1 A camel is depicted on the reverse of the Pictish cross-slab Meigle 1 (Meigle Museum).

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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