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Carvings adorn the front of this early medieval stone slab from St Blane’s Chapel burial ground, Isle of Bute. The upper of the two carved panels shows a rider on horseback. The lower panel is filled with a pattern of diagonal checks, each with a central indent. St Blane, a monk from the island, lived from about 530 to 590.

At some point, the sandstone slab was broken into three fragments. The pieces were put back together as part of conservation work that took place in 1993.

The stone is currently on loan to Bute Museum, Rothesay.

St Blane's Church

St Blane’s is the best preserved of the surviving early Christian sites on Bute.

Tradition holds that a monastery was founded here by St Catan in the late AD 500s. The story tells that his sister Ertha became pregnant by an unknown man, and Catan cast her and her baby, Blane, adrift. They eventually washed up in Ulster, where Blane grew up at St Congarth’s monastery at Bangor.

Blane returned to Bute and succeeded St Catan as abbot of the monastery and bishop of the area until his death in around AD 590.

Surviving remnants of that 1,400-year-old monastery include:

  • a stone wall separating the secular world from the spiritual
  • foundations of numerous circular buildings
  • a well
  • a stone base which would have once supported a stone cross

Among the stones

A cemetery at the centre of the enclosure is split into two parts. The discovery of early Christian stones testifies to its use in St Blane’s time.

A hogback stone found here, erroneously known as St Blane’s tomb, dates to the AD 900s or 1000s. It demonstrates that the Norsemen who settled here after the monastery was abandoned eventually became Christians themselves. The oblong structure in the lower cemetery may be a chapel or oratory.

A Romanesque gem

In the upper cemetery stand the ruins of Kingarth Parish Church, built in the mid-1100s. Its Romanesque architecture, particularly the 1300s chancel arch, are exceptional.

The cemeteries at St Blane’s remained in use for a long time. The rectangular footings at the south-west corner of the site probably represent the remains of the parsonage or manse.

Find out more about St Blane's Church

Details

Date Made
7th century-8th century
Dimensions
780 x 270 x 90mm
Property Information
St Blane's Church
Object Number
SBC001
Access Status
External

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