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Open day at St Vigeans Museum

7 October 2008

Locals will have the opportunity to preview a newly redisplayed collection of more than 30 Pictish stones at the St Vigeans museum, near Arbroath.

The museum is currently undergoing refurbishment, but on 10 October it will open its doors for one day only as a sneak preview before it officially opens next Easter.  

Historic Scotland has been carrying out a major conservation programme on the St Vigeans Stones during the upgrade of the museum.

Fresh academic research into the 38 sculptured stones and fragments strongly suggests that the small village of St Vigeans was once home to an important royal monastery.

The stones are a great early Christian treasure of Angus and it is hoped that enlarging and improving the museum will make them more engaging for visitors. Important new evidence resulting from the project research will be used to provide visitors with new insights into the meanings of the carvings.

It includes the Drosten Stone, a cross slab with ornate cross and fantastic beasts, plus a rare Latin and Pictish inscription which might have commemorated King Uoret who died around 842 AD. The stones date from the decades before 843 AD when the Pictish kingdom was united with Gaelic Dalriada under a single monarch – leading to the birth of Scotland.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland head of cultural resources, said:

“This open day will give local folk the chance to see the stones in their new setting before it officially opens next year. It’s also a way of saying thank you for the input given at a community consultation held in the village earlier this year.

“The stones are among the last and very finest expressions of Pictish art, which makes them tremendously important – part of our national collection of the earliest art of Scotland.

“We wanted to create a rich and vibrant atmosphere when refurbishing the museum to complement the vivid stories revealed in the carvings. “

The museum will officially open in April 2009. It will be open on a seasonal basis in common with other staffed Historic Scotland sites.

Notes for Editors

  • The open day is on Friday 10 October between 3pm and 7pm.

  • The stones rank in importance alongside the early Medieval carved stone collections at Meigle, St Andrews, Whithorn and Iona, all in the care of Historic Scotland.

  • The museum, is in the village of St Vigeans, one mile from Arbroath off the A92.

  • Among the reasons the collection is so special is that it includes a lot of human detail, telling us about how the Picts lived. There are also rare details like St Paul of Thebes (not the apostle) and St Antony breaking bread in the desert. These saints were regarded as the first monks who sought a life of purity and worship away from the sinfulness and temptation of ordinary society. The ideals and practices of these saints were brought from Egypt to Ireland where they had a profound effect on early monasticism in Ireland and in Pictland.

  • Over the last seven years Historic Scotland has commissioned research into the collection from renowned experts. This ranges from geological analysis to art historical and placename research. The research establishes St Vigeans as a cult centre of the Irish saint, St Féchin (who died around 664 AD), whose name was changed to Vigean in the local tongue.

For further information

Laura Varney
PR Executive
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8959 or 07769 630 763