This is a selection of comments on the significance of certain “location” elements and carvings for specific Stones:-
With the current ruins of a church at Alyth seemingly on the site of a church dedicated to St Moluag there is the prospect that if the Stone was carved in that Saint’s lifetime then the Class 2 Stone could be dated to the latter half of the 6th century. Likewise if the chapel at Fordoun was constructed in St Palladius’ lifetime then the Fordoun Stone suggests an early arrival for Christianity. Being in a prominent raised area St Vigeans is a prime example of a place of worship – Stone, church, water, location. However, and this is a much wider consideration, what might have influenced the inclusion of Pictish Symbols on the St Vigeans Stones and what is their source?
If the timeline is from Class 1 to Class 2 then it would be reasonable to assume whoever either instructed the carver or the person who carved the Class 2 Stone must have seen a source for the objects. In the case of St Vigeans there are no Class 1 Stones nearby (certainly that so far have appeared). This topic is explored in Class 2 and Class 1 Proximity for other areas in Pictland.
With the Cross side on Aberlemno Roadside 2 carved in a higher relief format than the reverse a greater importance could have been intended. That interpretation could be applied to other Stones and opens up the different ways the surfaces of these Stones were shared and to what end. Although the author’s definition for a Transition Stone includes enabling Pictish-Mithraic and Christian beliefs to be pursued separately with the third aspect being the transition from “existing” to “new”, that move could have been achieved in varying degrees. Change can be implemented from coercion causing resistance through to persuasion so gaining acceptance. Perhaps there is little to be read into the positioning of Symbols versus Crosses, maybe it is merely space availability. Rossie has the Symbols overwhelmed by the other carvings – whether this was intentional to emphasise the desire to or need to move on from one belief to another might be over-interpretation. Only one example has appeared so far of potentially an interesting variant on what elsewhere has been seen as more benign transition – Pabbay where the Cross is clearly a later deep incise addition.
Brodie is an example where the style of the ornate infill suggests they were made by the same accomplished carver suggesting such Stones have specifically been created as Transition Stones. Dunfallandy is a clear example of a Stone with content recording two beliefs – stand alone, complementary and enabling a transition walk through. Both Glamis Manse and Glamis Hunter’s Hill appear to be re-used or up-cycled Class 1 Stones – they are the only Stones found so far that have Pictish-Mithraic Symbols incise carved on undressed stone on one side and a relief carved Christian Cross on the other – seemingly putting forward the message of the “new” belief but without disregarding the existing one (otherwise the incise side could have been erased and was not).
Association with a Saint could have been within the time period of a Symbol Stone’s appearance and its use as an outdoors place of Christian worship, it may have been dedicated some time shortly after the Saint’s life or it may be years after when a church was built. Collectively any Saint associations for Stones suggests, for some, a broad dating for a move from outdoors to indoors worship on the basis that the Saint association is with a church not a Stone an example is Dyce 2 with St Fergus, who died around 730.
Complementary Pictish-Mithraic and Christian beliefs are clearly carved in an integrated format and style on the Elgin slab, Rosemarkie and others – prospectively absorbing the existing beliefs in with the “new” belief as a way of working towards some form of seamlessness. Kinnedar with the Pictish-Mithraic and Christian carvings on the same surface strengthens their being “complementary”. The Christian Cross message on the Nigg slab is reinforced by biblical scenes complemented by the Pictish Beast (marking the Capricorn gate to heaven for the soul’s return after mortal death).
Conversely, the Z-Rod & Serpent Symbol at Gask is between a person on horseback and an unidentified animal – possibly suggesting that the carving was not planned in with prominent profile.
Comparing the format of the main surfaces on Cossans there is deeper relief carving around the Cross with its outer edges well squared off – maybe not all the work was done at the same time or by the same hand.
Although they are not near churches (generally the locations of Stones with an associated Saint’s name) both Cossans and Balluderon Stones have names that are those of Saints – Orland and Martin respectively.
Although the Z-Rod & Double Disc is particularly worn and almost squeezed in beside the left of the hunting scene (not dissimilar to Gask) on Largo the carvings are complementary.
It would seem unreasonable to assume that early churches were only located where there were Symbol Stones with carved objects associated with Christian belief. Additionally it would be unreasonable to conclude that wherever there was a Class 2 or 3 Stone then a place for indoor worship would have been built. An added complication is that a proportion of church sites have co-located or nearby Stones with carvings of Pictish-Mithraic objects only e.g. Navidale which is the site of St Ninian’s Chapel.