Stone slabs, carved with relief images and dating from 800 to 1000 can be found throughout Scotland. They are usually referred to as Pictish stones as they were made by the Pictish people who inhabited large areas of what is now called Scotland.
Within Forfar Museum are brought together a stunning collection of these stones which are displayed to best advantage so that both the front and the rear of these enigmatic stones can be closely examined.
What are the highlights of this collection
Dunnichen Symbol Stone
On loan from Dundee Museums, this magnificent example of the symbol stones of the Picts was discovered during Ploughing on the Dunnichen Estate near Forfar in 1805.
The face of the stone shows the common ‘double disc’ and Z rod symbols of the Picts, along with the much rarer ‘flower’ symbol. In contrast the rear of the stone has not been shaped or faced in any way.
Kirriemuir Sculptured Stones
Kirriemuir Nos.1-5 - These five Early Christian stones were discovered when the Old Parish Church of Kirriemuir was demolished in 1787. They all date to the 9th or 10th Centuries AD and support other evidence that Kirriemuir was an important administrative area in Celtic times.
Kirriemuir No.1 - A cross slab with sculpture on both faces. The front has a cross decorated with interlace. An eagle headed man, probably John the Evangelist is depicted above each arm. Flanking the shaft of the cross are too churchmen each holding a book. The back of the slab is divided into two panels. The top one has two figures, thought to be Saints Paul and Anthony breaking bread.
Kirriemuir No.2 - A cross slab with sculpture on both faces and key pattern on the top and sides. The front has a cross decorated with key pattern. Angels sit above the arms and the shaft is flanked on the left by a hunter carrying a net and a staff. On the right is a bead Red Deer Stag and three hunting dogs. The back has double-disc and Z rod symbols in the top left corner and below is a hunting scene with two well-dressed mounted hunters. The lower man is about to spear a Red Deer Stag which is also being attacked by his deerhound.
Kirriemuir No.3 - A cross slab with sculpture on both faces. The front has a cross, decorated with interlace. Intertwined animals flank the shaft. The reverse has two horsemen but the top of the upper one is missing. The lower figure is complete with sword and shield. A small dog accompanies the warrior.
Kirriemuir No.4 - One face of the slab has flaked off and although the side has some knotwork remaining, the main sculpture is only on one face. The panel, presumably the back of the slab, is filled with the figure of an angel with drooping wings. The hem of the dress is decorated with key pattern.
Kirriemuir No.5 - A cross slab with sculpture on both faces. The top and sides are decorated with key pattern. The front has a plain cross with an incised outline. All four panels flanking the cross contain simple knotwork. The reverse has an undecorated border but is otherwise very similar to the front.
In addition to these larger pieces the museum also displays a number of smaller pieces that were found during excavations in the Kirriemuir kirkyard in April 1995 when the access was being improved. All are fragments excepting one stone which although broken was complete.
Dating to the 9th/10th centuries, these stones confirm the importance of the early church at Kirriemuir. In Pictland only St Andrews, St Vigeans and Meigle have larger collections of stones found on site. One of the stones appears to have a panel in the centre of the cross which has not been completed. This indicates that the stones were sculptured on site and confirms the existence of a ‘Kirriemuir School’ of sculpture, which has been suggested by some scholars.
How can I find out more
Almost all of the collection is on display. Within the gallery an interactive screen guides the visitor through every Pictish stone found in Angus.