Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Dunnicaer Sea Stack

Class I Pictish symbol stone from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, bearing a double disc and Z-rod, recovered from the Dunnicaer (Dun-Na-Caer) sea stack in the 19th century, and now embedded with three others in a modern stone wall at Banchory House.
Class I Pictish symbol stone from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, bearing a double disc and Z-rod, recovered from the Dunnicaer (Dun-Na-Caer) sea stack in the 19th century, and now embedded with three others in a modern stone wall at Banchory House.

The siege of Dún Foither. Annals of Ulster, U681/U694.

From the BBC:

Archaeologists have uncovered a “very significant” Pictish fort after scaling a remote sea stack off the coast of Aberdeenshire.

The team from the University of Aberdeen believe the ancient remains could be one of many along the coast south of Stonehaven.

It is the first time an official excavation has been carried out there.

Pictish symbol stones were said to be found on the Dunnicaer sea stack by locals in the 19th Century.

Until this latest discovery, it was unclear whether the site held other historical remains.

The Aberdeen team believe they have found the remains of a house, a fireplace and ramparts.

[…]

Lead archaeologist Dr Gordon Noble said it could be the precursor to Dunnotter Castle, the remains of which lie a quarter of a mile south of the site.

He explained: “We’ve opened a few trenches so far. This is the site where, in the 19th Century, they found six Pictish stones when a group of youths from Stonehaven came up the sea stack.

“Here we’ve got clear evidence of people living on the sea stack at least for part of the year. Certainly people are living here for long enough to create this really nice well-constructed hearth and these lovely floor layers.”

St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure

The St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, dating from approximately A.D. 800, is the finest surviving collection of Scottish silver from the period. The hoard was discovered in July 1958, in the ruins of a twelfth century chapel on St. Ninian’s isle, a land-tied island connected to the southwestern coast of the Mainland, Shetland.  The metalwork hoard (mainly silver, some gilt) consists of both secular pieces — penannular brooches and sword scabbard chapes, for example — and ritual objects such a bowls and spoons. The brooches show a variety of typical Pictish forms, with both zoomorphic and lobed geometric terminals, and two of the scabbard chapes and a sword pommel appear to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, probably made in Mercia in the late 8th century; one has an inscription with a prayer in Old English.

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.

Dunadd

Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, 'fort on the [River] Add'), is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.
Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, ‘fort on the [River] Add’), is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.
Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: 'The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn' without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states: 'Aengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach.'
Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: ‘The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn’ without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states: ‘Aengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach.’

Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including the imprint of a foot and a basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late VIII century or afterwards.

The renowned incised stone footprint on Dunadd.
The renowned incised stone footprint on Dunadd.
The ceremonial basin at Dunadd. Along with the footprint, some historians have suggested that the two might have played a role in the coronation summary of the Scots kings of Dál Riata.
The ceremonial basin at Dunadd. Along with the stone footprint, some historians have suggested that the two might have played a role in the coronation ceremony of the Scots kings of Dál Riata.

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.

Mysterious Scottish Petrospheres

Carved Stone Balls are petrospheres, usually round and rarely oval. They have from 3 to 160 (but usually six) protruding knobs on the surface. Their size is fairly uniform at around 2.75 inches or 7 cm across, they date from the late Neolithic to possibly as late as the Iron Age, and are mainly found in Scotland, but also elsewhere in Britain and Ireland. They range from having no ornamentation (apart from the knobs) to extensive and highly varied engraved patterns. A wide range of theories have been produced to explain their use or significance, without any one gaining very wide acceptance.

An example from Towie in Aberdeenshire, dated from 3200–2500 BC.
An example from the farm of Golspie Towers, found in 1933.
A Carved Stone Ball with low profile knobs.
Three examples from Scotland; now in the British Museum.

Nearly all have been found in north-east Scotland, the majority in Aberdeenshire, the fertile land lying to the east of the Grampian Mountains. A similar distribution to that of Pictish symbols led to the early suggestion that Carved Stone Balls are Pictish artefacts. The core distribution also reflects that of the Recumbent stone circles. As objects they are very easy to transport and a few have been found on Iona, Skye, Harris, Uist, Lewis, Arran, Hawick, Wigtownshire and fifteen from Orkney. Outside Scotland examples have been found in Ireland at Ballymena, and in England at Durham, Cumbria, Lowick and Bridlington. The larger (90mm diameter) balls are all from Aberdeenshire, bar one from Newburgh in Fife.

Brecbennoch of St. Columba

The Monymusk Reliquary is an VIII century Scottish reliquary made of wood and metal characterised by an Insular fusion of Gaelic and Pictish design and Anglo-Saxon metalworking, probably by Ionan monks. It has been said to be the Brecbennoch of St. Columba (modern Gaelic Breac Bannoch or “embossed peaked-thing”), a sacred battle ensign of the Scottish army, used for saintly intercession.