In honour of a king
The extraordinarily rare and impressive Dupplin Cross was carved around AD 800. It is now on display in St Serf’s Church, Dunning
, but once stood near the palace of the Pictish kings at Forteviot, 3 miles (5km) away.
It was made for King Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned from c.789 to 820. We know this because a panel on the rear west face of the has been translated from the original Latin. It was during Constantine’s reign that the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots began to merge, before finally uniting under King Kenneth around 843.
Symbol of power
Free-standing crosses were more commonly erected in Ireland, western Scotland and Northumbria than in eastern Scotland. In fact, the Dupplin Cross is the only complete example to survive in Pictish territory.
Its style and content would have shouted important messages to its Pictish viewers. They would have been left in no doubt that King Constantine wanted his political authority and association with the church to be recognised.
In the carvings, images of contemporary royal authority are skilfully juxtaposed with those of the biblical King David. The Picts clearly saw David – the psalmist and protector of his flock from wild adversaries – as a warrior king and saviour of his people. The proud horseman carrying a sword or sceptre, depicted on the front (east) face, is almost certainly Constantine, surrounded by his warriors.
A rare work of art
The 3m-high cross, carved from local sandstone, is richly decorated on all four faces. Its form and content derive from a combination of the Pictish sculptor’s innovations and external sources of inspiration. The head of the cross, with its prominent central boss and vine-scroll filling the arms, is inspired by Northumbrian art. But the double-curve of the arms was probably influenced by Iona.
The figures, though, are purely Pictish. King Constantine, astride his horse, has a prominent head and moustache to show his authority. The four young warriors below him have plain clothing and no moustaches. The hunting dogs in full chase are common on Pictish sculptures.
Preserving the past
A second cross stood at Invernay, on the opposite side of the valley from Constantine’s palace at Forteviot. This palace is known only from documentary sources. Much of it may have been swept into the Water of May, from where a decorated carved stone arch was recovered. The stone might have been part of a royal chapel. The Dupplin Cross was moved to St Serf’s Church in 2002, for conservation reasons.
- The Latin inscription – unique in recording the name of a Pictish king.
- The figures – wonderful examples of Pictish sculpture.
- The stylised decoration – well executed and showing the close links between the kingdoms of the Picts, Scots and Northumbria.
Find out more about Pictish Stones at www.pictishstones.org.uk
Region – Perthshire, Kinross and Angus
In Dunning Village on the B9141 from the A9.
Grid reference - NO 019144.
Post code PH2 0RG.
How to get thereCycle RoutesSite on the National Cycle Network Public transport
From Perth Bus Station at Leonard Street, take Stagecoach Perth bus no 17 to Dunning Village (38 mins). Walk to St Serf's church and Dupplin Cross.
Tel:01764 684 497
Due to essential works to repair the lime plaster throughout the interior of the church, visitor access is limited to a maximum of 12 people at any one time within the base of the tower that houses the Dupplin Cross.
Open Summer only (April - September), seven days a week, 9.30am to 5.30pm (last entry 5pm).
Admission is free of charge. Donations are welcome.