Pictish Belief “Transition” – Dating A Timeframe

This section of the Pictish Symbol Stones website is focussed on:

Dating a Pictish Belief “Transition” Timeframe – based on Class 2 Stones, Saints of Scotland and Monastic Houses

It is suggested in the introduction to Pictish “Transition” Stones that the purpose of Class 2 Stones was to facilitate the local introduction of Christianity whilst specifically respecting a continuation of an existing Mithraic belief over a changeover period. This period is referred to as “Transition Timeframe”.

By looking at the active dates for Saints of Scotland and Monastic Houses there should be a prospect to outline a time period for the establishment of Christianity and within that a distinct Transition Timeframe involving Class 2 Stones.

An association within a Saint’s lifetime would undoubtedly have added to the significance of a Stone alongside those physical features which may have belief connotations – such as proximity to water, being in a raised or open area or near a church. Elements of these features and their relevance are detailed at Features of Class 2 Stone Locations.

Because many associations seemed to be less with Saints in “their life time” and more with Saint name dedications, it became apparent that searching across names of all Saints of Scotland would provide a more complete picture. These are Saints who generally have a Scottish connection and a feast day recognised or celebrated in Scotland.

Mapping Class 2 Stone locations showed a geographic concentration in Angus and Perth & Kinross (extract below):

A similar geographic concentration was apparent for specific Saints having a Stone association and for Monastic houses from a monasteries, abbeys and priories website. This prompted an Initial Focus on Angus and Perth & Kinross covering Class 2 Stones and names of Saints which was extended to include Monastic Houses.

To broaden the base of the investigation beyond Saints of Scotland, it was decided to see if there were any monasteries, abbeys, priories or other religious foundations right across Scotland whose setting up might have prompted the use of Class 2 Stones to facilitate the move from, the then, current belief to Christianity. This might have two outcomes – the use of existing Stones and the creation of new ones – both prospects leading to potential dating.

By assessing the likelihood of relevance of individual Saints and Monastic Houses to this investigation, short-lists were made for those with a “plausible” relevance to consider what influence they might have had on the Transition Timeframe.

An additional output from the project may be a way of determining the date period for Class 2 Stones based on the active dates of Saints of Scotland – perhaps reinforcing the commonly believed dates, or not.

What became a comprehensive project is recorded in 5 Parts linked from this Introduction.

Part 1Initial Focus on Angus and Perth & Kinross

Part 2Saints of Scotland – Creating a Consolidated List

Part 3Saints of Scotland – Assessing their Influence in Dating “Transition”

Part 4Monastic Houses in Scotland – Assessing their Influence in Dating “Transition

Part 5Pictish Belief “Transition” – A Prospective Timeframe

The marked up map above is on an extract from The Pictish Symbol Stones of Scotland published by RCAHMS.