OS Grid Reference: NJ 70378 24714. About 1 mile to the northwest of the village called Chapel of Garioch, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, there is a very tall carved stone slab known as The Maiden Stone or The Drumdurno Stone, which has Pictish symbols on one side and a Christian cross on the other. This carved stone, standing beside a country road, is thought to date from the 8th or 9th century AD, and was probably carved at the time when the Picts of eastern Scotland were being Christianized. There are one or two Legends about a confrontation that took place here between a local maiden and the devil and, this seems to be where the name ‘Maiden Stone’ originates. As it is located near Drumdurno farm the stone gets its other name from that local place-name. Chapel of Garioch is 4 miles northwest of Inverurie and just off the A96. To reach the monument head to Chapel of Garioch village and, at the old post office, follow the minor road northwest for ½ a mile. The stone stands beside the road on the opposite side of the woodland, just before the entrance to Crowmallie House.
This tall Class II Pictish symbol stone and cross-slab is highly decorated although some of the carvings are now quite faint due to weathering. It is 10 foot high (3.2m) and is made of a pinkish-red granite. A triangular chunk or notch of stone is missing from the monument at one side about three-quarters of the way up and maybe some of the carvings too. The carving of a man with outstretched arms on the front of the stone may be a depiction of Christ; the carving of a ringed cross also on the front face would suggest that the Picts of eastern Scotland were Christianized at the time that this carving was made – perhaps in the early 8th century AD?
Elizabeth Sutherland (1997) gives her description of the stone and its carvings: “Front: divided into five panels: (1) above a cross find a man with arms outstretched and fish monsters with spiral tails on either side of him; (2) a ringed cross with round hollow armpits with all ornamentation defaced; in (3) and (4) no trace of sculpture remains; (5) spiral and knot-work decoration. Back: four panels reading from the top: (1) several defaced beasts; (2) a notched rectangle & Z-rod. A triangular section has been broken off the stone between these top two panels on the right following a natural crack in the granite; (3) a Pictish beast and (4) a mirror & double-edged comb. Both sides: decorated with very worn interlace. Comment: The Maiden Stone is one of the few Class II cross-slabs to be found in Aberdeenshire and may belong to the second half of the 9th century, thus post-dating the reign of Kenneth Mac Alpin. Political changes in the south may have had little immediate effect on the artistic traditions of the Picts here.”
Author Joyce Miller (2000) has a slightly different view of the stone carvings. She says that: “At the head of the front of the stone, a man stands with arms outstretched, holding a sea-monster in each hand. Below this group is a ringed cross, with traces of interlaced decoration at either side. At the foot of the cross there appears to have been a large and intricately patterned disc, with triangular knots filling out the external corners. The back of the stone is less weathered and shows several beasts of various descriptions in the top panel; below is a large notched rectangle and z-rod; below that is a fine Pictish beast; and at the bottom is a mirror and double-sided comb.”
The site entry for Maiden Stone (HMSO 1959), says this is: “The most famous of the Early Christian monuments in Aber-deenshire, this stone is associated with several weird legends formerly current in the Garioch. On one side it displays a richly ornamented Celtic cross and other decoration in the same style, and on the other side are Pictish symbols.”
Miller (2000) also tells of a story about the stone. She says that: “One story concerning the origin of the stone is that a daughter of the Lord of Balquhain made a bet with the devil that she could bake bread before he could build a road to the summit of the high hill of Bennachie. The devil won the bet, of course, and when the woman fled she was turned into the stone, either by the devil or to prevent her going to hell.” Another story/legend tells that the maiden married a stranger who turned out to be the devil and that he finished the road and claimed the forfeit. The maiden ran from the devil and prayed to be saved. The legend finishes by saying that God turned her to stone, and the notch in the stone is where the devil grasped her shoulder as she tried to run away, according to Wikipedia.
Sources and related websites:
H. M. S. O., Ancient Monuments – Scotland, (Volume VI), H. M. Stationary Office, Edinburgh, 1959.
Jackson, Anthony, The Pictish Trail, The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989.
Miller, Joyce, Myth and Magic – Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places, Goblinshead, Musselburgh, Scotland, 2000.
Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1997.
© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.