It is hard to believe that this sleepy Angus village of St Vigeans was once the centre of a royal estate and of huge religious importance, bustling with prayerful pilgrims and monks. Admittedly, this was more than 1,000 years ago, so visitors could be forgiven for missing the evidence that is scattered around and in the walls of the late medieval church (not HS) perched on a striking 40ft mound in front of them.
The most important indications of the village’s powerful past can be found, however, in two adjoining sandstone cottages along its only street. Within their walls in Historic Scotland’s museum are housed 38 carved stones, which had once stood up on the old church mound to broadcast early messages of the true Christian faith.
The newly refurbished museum gives overdue recognition to the significance of the carvings. ‘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.
The quality of carving on some of the stones is as good as anything in Western Europe at that time. These included the Drosten Stone, a cross-slab dating from the early 800s and inscribed in both Latin and Pictish, carved on one side with a cross and on the other with figures and symbols; a house shrine; and a fragment of a huge freestanding cross.
As well as their historical significance, there is much to intrigue visitors in the carvings, such as devilish imps, saintly figures and bizarre beasts. There are also vivid depictions of the everyday life of the Picts. They illustrate the reality of their world: details of contemporary costumes, riding equipment, and a crossbow man.
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Find out more about Pictish Stones at www.pictishstones.org.uk
Region – Perthshire, Kinross and Angus
In the village of St Vigeans 0.5m north of Arbroath off of the A92. DD11 4RB
Open by appointment only. Please telephone 01241 878 756 for details.
Due to the layout and space limitations there is no photography within the museum.
Whist there is parking available on the adjacent street, we would prefer visitors to use the nearby public car park following the Brown tourist road signposting off the A92.