The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Dupplin Cross, Dunning, Perth And Kinross, Scotland

Duppling Cross (originally at Cross Park Field, Forteviot)

Duppling Cross (originally at Cross Park Field, Forteviot)

Os grid reference: NO 0190 1448. This very splendidly carved free-standing cross which is known as Dupplin Cross, has in recent years been re-housed inside the ancient church of St Serf at Dunning in the Strathearn region, Perth & Kinross, for safety’s sake as it originally stood on a hill at Cross Park Field near Bankhead Farm 1 mile to the north of Forteviot, Perth & Kinross (Os grid ref: NO 0505 1896). Forteviot was one of the Pictish ‘royal’ capitals and a palace is said to have been built there. The Dupplin cross is, infact, a Class III Pictish stone – the shaft displaying human figures and a Latin inscription – while the head of the cross has Celtic-style decoration. And also in the church there is a Pictish cross-slab and also a Viking (hogback) tombstone. The early 13th century church of St Serf (Servanus) is located in the centre of the village of Dunning some 3 miles south of Forteviot, 3 miles south-east of the A9, and 7 miles south-west of Perth.

Dupplin Cross (front & east side) by J. Romilly Allen.

Dupplin Cross (front & east side) by J. Romilly Allen.

The cross is made of local hard sandstone and is 8 foot 6 inches high and 3 foot wide across its arms, and it is said to date from about 900 AD, so quite late for a Pictish stone. It is a Class III Pictish cross, but it does not have any symbols as such, although there are numerous warrior-like figures and also Biblical characters as well as ornate decoration described as being ‘Celtic’ in style. On the front face of the cross roll moulding and little spirals at intervals on the arms – with a raised circular boss at the centre which, according to the very detailed work ‘Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross’ by Derek Bryce, is “decorated with what appear to be solar radiations, symbols of Divine light”; the boss itself having a tiny cross on it. The shaft (front side) has three panels, one of which is now known to have a Latin inscription recalling the Pictish King Custantin, son of Wuirgust (Constantine Mac Fergus), the other two depict birds with crossed and interlinking beaks and legs surrounding a raised boss of interlacing and, David (from The Old Testament) tending the lion’s paw, with two more animals at the side.

The opposite cross-face has roll moulding, but the decoration in the boss is damaged, and the arms have scrollwork and key-patterning at the top. Both edges of the cross have interesting carvings – that at the left side has three panels (top) and three more on the shaft (lower) with a beast biting its tail, a man probably David seated playing a large harp, and cord-plait work. The right edge (top) has four panels of interlacing and three more on the shaft (lower) with two dogs sitting on their haunches with paws touching, two warriors on foot with sheilds and spears, and knotwork. The opposite shaft face has three panels showing a warrior on horseback, four warriors on foot holding shields and spears, a hound leaping on another animal which is perhaps a hind, and key-patterning seperating it all, according to Elizabeth Sutherland’s very thorough work ‘The Pictish Guide’.

Also in St Serf’s church is a Pictish Class III sandstone cross-slab of the 10th century? This has a broad-type Wheel or ring cross in high relief which is 3 foot 10 inches high. This slab was dug up from beneath the floor under the church tower about 1900. The cross at the top is, rather oddly, repeated lower down the slab but only about half of it has been carved; the sides of the slab have typical Celtic interlacing, now rather worn. And a tombstone of the 10th or 11th century is thought to be a Viking hogback. This has a cross carved upon its front-side and cable moulding at its border.

St Serf or Servanus, patron of Dunning Church, founded a monastic school at Culross, Fife, in the early 6th century. Traditionally, he baptised and tutored St Kentigern (Mungo); and is perhaps wrongly acredited with the title: Apostle of Fife. He died in 560 or 580 and his feast-day is usually held on 1st July.

Sources:

Bryce, Derek., Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Wales, 1989.

Jackson, Anthony., The Pictish Trail,  The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989. 

Sutherland, Elizabeth., The Pictish Guide,   Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1997.