Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
The Picts in stone | The Pictish church at Meigle | Meigle 2 and the legend of Queen Guinevere
The Picts in stone
Meigle Museum has an impressive collection of Pictish carved sculpture, including cross slabs, recumbent gravestones, a hogback stone and rare architectural fragments. These demonstrate both the artistic vigour of Pictish society and the skill of its stonecarvers.
The former schoolhouse housing the collection backs onto the graveyard where most of the stones were found. The present church at Meigle dates to around 1870, but there has probably been a church on this site for over a thousand years.
The Pictish church at Meigle
The Picts were a confederation of tribes who lived in eastern Scotland until around 850. They were converted to Christianity in the 6th and 7th century.
The architectural fragments on display suggest that the Pictish church at Meigle was a sophisticated building. Meigle was an important centre of power in early medieval Scotland. The villa, or royal estate, at Migdele (Meigle) is mentioned in the time of King Pherath (839–42), shortly before the Picts were united with the Scots under Kenneth mac Alpin.
Many of the carved stones may have been gravemarkers for members of the warrior élite. Some of them are portrayed on the stones with their weapons, or engaged in their favourite pastime of hunting. We know remarkably little about the Picts, and most of what we know of their beliefs comes from the iconography of carved stones, such as those housed in the museum. All the sculpture is made from local sandstone and is overtly Christian.
Meigle 2 and the legend of Queen Guinevere
The majestic cross-slab known as Meigle 2 dominates the collection. It stands 2.5m high and probably stood beside the entrance to the churchyard. The stone features a wheel-headed cross with raised bosses, resembling the rivet heads of metalwork, and interlaced images of beasts on the shaft. The reverse features Daniel in the lions’ den, at the centre of other scenes showing hunting scenes.
There is a local tradition that Meigle 2 marked the grave of Vanora. She is better known as Queen Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, who was abducted by King Mordred and held captive on Berry Hill, near Meigle. When she returned to her husband, he sentenced her to death by being torn apart by wild beasts. The scene showing Daniel and the lions was believed to depict this tragic event.