Association with a Saint’s Name – a dating prospect for a Stone?

Whilst an association with a Saint seems to add importance to a Symbol Stone’s location it is difficult to determine whether that relationship is with the Stone, a co-located church or both. For Class 2 Stones, the locations on this map show where there are Saint associations.

Some churches in Pictland have been “founded” (with physical presence) by people who were either established or recently became a Saint. Many more churches were “dedicated” to well known Saints after their death – in way of veneration. For very well known Saints (e.g. Columba, Peter & Martin) we have much information, for others limited or no understanding (e.g. Medan & Orland). An added consideration is that our modern view of a Saint and what prevailed in Pictish times is different – seemingly the local clergyman was sometimes referred to as Saint.

Relevance between Saints and Stones can be unclear – such as St Medan and Kingoldrum (there were male and female versions of this Saint but in different time periods) and St Boniface and Tealing (the church was dedicated to St Peter but seemingly founded by St Boniface).

Prospective connections can be tenuous but a perceived association with a Saint appears to be more with a Stone than a church.

There are two instances of Stones not near a church but with Saint associations – Balluderon (also known as St Martin’s Stone) and Cossans (the so-called St Orland’s Stone). Although the reasons for the associations are unclear these are clearly associations specifically between a Stone and a Saint rather than with a church.

The information accumulated in this investigation has led to a dating prospect – in some cases towards clear time frames.

Highlights from Association with a Saint – a dating prospect? PDF include:-

Some of the supposed Stone / Saint associations are very much time displaced such as Monifieth / St Regulus who was the 4th century monk or bishop of Patras, Greece who is said to have fled to Scotland in 345 with the bones of St Andrew and given them to King Óengus 1 who was in power from 732 to 761 – beyond the Saint’s lifetime by nearly 400 years!

An example of the need for care in interpreting material is in Dyce / St Fergus where there may be an 8th century association with St Fergus but the style of the Cross with “Stafford Knots” allegedly dates the Symbol Stone to the Anglo-Saxon 7th century period.

Overall, an association with a Saint to a date for a Class 2 Stone covers the period from the 5th to 7th century. Clear, dateable examples for Stones serving in way of “transition” between Mithraic and Christian beliefs with the reinforcement of an association of a Saint are the Alyth / St Moluag combination – if the Stone was carved in St Moluag’s lifetime or soon after then it dates to the late 6th / early 7th century and from Fordoun / St Palladius – if the association with the Saint was in his lifetime then this tends to date this Stone to the 5th century maybe marking a relatively early attempt to transition from a Pictish-Mithraic belief. Perhaps for these locations a move from outdoors to indoors worship took place with the belief transition.

There is a concentration of Class 2 Stones in the Angus and Perth & Kinross geography with six locations having Saint Associations which, arguably, might lead to a dating prospect for the Stones.

To progress the dating investigation, the author has sought information from Dundee, Forfar and Perth museums to see if there were monasteries, abbeys or other religious foundations whose setting up might have prompted the use of Class 2 Stones to facilitate the move in belief to Christianity.

So far, two websites are appearing as primary sources for information 1) a List of saints of Scotland – Wikipedia which covers all Saints with feast days having a connection with Scotland and 2) a List of monastic houses in Scotland which is indicating a timeframe for monasteries beyond that usually associated with Class 2 Stones. Additionally, extracts from copies of the 5 volumes of Angus or Forfarshire the land and people by Alex Warden may provide further detail – the search started in October 2022.

From a combination of associations with Saints and locations of monasteries, abbeys or other religious foundations it should be possible to see whether they might have prompted the use of Class 2 Stones to facilitate the move in belief to Christianity. This would lead to something firmer than just a “prospect” for dating.