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).

Nigg Stone Restored

In April of 2013, restoration work on the Nigg Stone, an incomplete Class II Pictish cross-slab, perhaps dating to the end of the 8th century, was completed in Edinburgh, and the stone returned to stand in a room at the west end of the parish church of Nigg, Easter Ross.

"Front" of the Nigg Stone, an incomplete Class II Pictish cross-slab, perhaps dating to the end of the 8th century, Old Nigg Church, Nigg, Easter Ross, Scotland.
“Front” of the Nigg Stone, an incomplete Class II Pictish cross-slab, perhaps dating to the end of the 8th century, Old Nigg Church, Nigg, Easter Ross, Scotland.

The cross-slab, one of the finest surviving Pictish carved stones, formerly stood in the kirkyard of Old Nigg Church (itself largely rebuilt in 1626). Blown down and shattered by a storm in 1727, it was set up against the east gable of the church. The stone was broken once more while being moved to allow access to a burial vault and subsequently re-erected upside down. Later it was moved yet again to an open-sided porch at west end of the church, from whence it was finally taken inside to a room immediately outside the vestry some years ago.

Detail of boss and serpent design on the Nigg Stone.
Detail of boss and serpent design on the Nigg Stone.

The upper and lower parts were crudely joined together using metal staples (now removed), and the shattered intervening portion — a chunk of which was discovered in a nearby burn in 1998 — was discarded. In 2011, Old Nigg Trust secured a funding package of £178,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Government, and the European Community Highland LEADER 2007-2013 Programme to restore the monument.

Obverse of the Nigg Stone (pre-reconstruction) as depicted in Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1856.
Obverse of the Nigg Stone (pre-reconstruction) as depicted in Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1856.

The Nigg Stone bears an elaborately decorated cross in high relief on the ‘front’ and a figural scene on the reverse. This scene is extremely complicated and made even more difficult to interpret by deliberate defacement. Among the depictions are two Pictish symbols: an eagle above a Pictish Beast, a sheep, the oldest evidence of a European triangular harp, and hunting scenes.

Reverse of the Nigg Stone (pre-reconstruction) as depicted in Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1856.
Reverse of the Nigg Stone (pre-reconstruction) as depicted in Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1856.

The carvings include a unique illustration of a miracle, the first monks, SS. Paul and Anthony, receiving bread in the desert from a raven sent by God: and David, King and Psalmist, saving a sheep from a lion, his harp (modelled on a contemporary Pictish instrument) beside his shoulder. The style echoes that of the the sculptured crosses on Iona, as well as the Hiberno-Saxon/Insular style of the Book of Kells, and illustrated manuscripts of Lindisfarne in Northumbria and Durrow in Ireland.

Hilton of Cadboll Stone

The Hilton of Cadboll Stone is a Class II Pictish stone discovered at Hilton of Cadboll, on the Tarbat Peninsula in Easter Ross, Scotland. On the seaward-facing side is a Christian cross, and on the landward facing side are secular depictions. The latter are carved below the Pictish symbols of crescent and V-rod and double disc and Z-rod: a hunting scene including a woman wearing a large penannular brooch riding side-saddle. Like other similar stones, it can be dated between the 6th to 9th centuries.
The stone was formerly on in the vicinity of a chapel just north of the village. It was removed to Invergordon Castle in the 19th century, before being donated to the British Museum. The latter move was not popular with the Scottish public, and so it was moved once more, to the Museum of Scotland, where it remains today. A replica designed and carved by Barry Grove was recently erected on the site. Depicted, the landward-facing, secular side of the cross-slab on location in Easter Ross. This is the replica by Barry Grove.