Grave Slabs at Keills

Two grave slabs at Keills, Knapdale, Plate LVII from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
Two grave slabs at Keills, Knapdale, Plate LVII from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

The grave slabs here represented are in the ruined chapel at Keills, Knapdale. Both of them are early and interesting specimens of the class to which they belong. In each case the two-handed sword is obviously a portrait of the real weapon. On the first there appear on one side of the sword a harp, comb, shears, and mirror, besides an object which may be a case or cover, and a smaller figure which may be meant for a box containing some toilet appendage. A surrounding inscription is almost entirely defaced.

The second slab has on one side of the sword an inscription, and on the other a deer-hunt and some grotesque creatures, with a galley at the bottom.

Keills Chapel, Knapdale.
Keills Chapel, Knapdale.

The simple, rectangular Keills Chapel, dedicated to St. Cormac, served as the parish church of Knapdale until the parish was split into two in 1734. It is one of few churches from the 1100s and 1200s surviving in Argyll. What sets it apart is what it contains: a sculptural feast of almost forty carved stones, ranging in date from the 8th to the 16th century. Pre-eminent among them is the 8th-century Keills Cross.

MacMillan’s Cross at Kilmory

MacMillan's Cross, Plate XXXIII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
MacMillan’s Cross, Plate XXXIII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

 

Detail of inscription on the rear face of MacMillan's Cross.
Detail of inscription on the rear face of MacMillan’s Cross.

The chapel of Kilmorie, in South Knapdale, has been already referred to as having traditionally been erected by St. Charmaig (Cormac). Its walls are still almost complete, and it is surrounded by a burying-ground. In both the chapel and graveyard are many slabs ornamented with the sword and shears. The cross figured in this Plate is in the churchyard. On one side is represented the crucifixion of our Lord, with figures which may be meant for the Blessed Virgin and St. John. Beneath is a two-handed sword. On the other side of the shaft is a stag-hunt, the dogs being represented with collars, as on some of the early east cross slabs, and lower down is an armed man holding in his hand a battle-axe, with a large horn suspended from his shoulder. Beneath his feet is the inscription — HEC EST CRVX ALEXANDRI MACMVLEN. The Macmillans, according to their traditions, were connected with the clan Chattan, and a branch of them possessed the greater part of Southern Knapdale, where their chief was known under the title of Macmillan of Knap; but although they were at a very early period in Knapdale, they probably obtained the greater part of their possessions there by marriage with the heiress of the chief of the Macneils in the sixteenth century. To an early part of this century the cross is probably to be ascribed. A drawing and notice of this monument occurs in Archæologia Scotica, vol. iv. p. 377.

Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.