The exact function and layout of this object in St Andrews Cathedral is still widely debated in academia. Many believe it is a part of a Pictish sarcophagus or shrine, whilst others think it may have been from a series of screens.

It dates from the 700s to the early 800s, and comprises six individual sandstone pieces which slot together. The first fragments were discovered in 1833 while grave digging. Further fragments were found over the years, and in 1922 the known surviving pieces were collated. It is believed that the majority (if not all) the pieces were found in ther burial ground between St Rule’s Tower and the Cathedral.

Despite its Pictish origins, this object does not inclue any of the characteristic symbols found on other Pictish monuments. However, includes other decorative styles that are commonly found in Pictish sculpture, such as hunting, fictional animals, and biblical scenes on the main panel.

St Andrews Cathedral

St Rule’s Church was likely built around 1130, as the first place of worship in Scotland for the newly arrived Augustinian canons. This Continental reformed order supplanted the existing clergy.

The 33m tall St Rule’s Tower may have been a beacon for pilgrims heading for the shrine of St Andrew.

Scotland’s greatest cathedral

The cathedral was begun in 1160–2 by Bishop Arnold. Work continued over the next 150 years, but was stalled by a storm in 1272, which blew down the west front, and by the first War of Independence against England.

When the cathedral was finally dedicated in 1318 – in the presence of Robert the Bruce, by then king – it was by far the largest church in Scotland. So it was fitting that St Rule’s became the headquarters of the Scottish Church.

The cathedral church is now ruined, but large areas survive.

Its superb remains include the:

  • east gable of the presbytery, which housed the relics of St Andrew
  • south wall of the nave
  • majestic west front

The cloister retains its ruined chapter house and the restored stone-vaulted undercrofts that now house the cathedral museum. On display are fascinating artefacts from the early medieval era to post-Reformation times.

The Pends Gate (the main entrance into the cathedral precinct) and much of the precinct wall survive. Beyond the wall, on a ledge above the sea, are the foundations of the church of St Mary on the Rock (St Mary Kirkheugh). This was probably built to house the successors of the Culdee foundation, displaced from the cathedral site by the Augustinians.

The cathedral and the Protestant Reformation

In 1559, John Knox preached a fiery sermon in St Andrews parish church, and the cathedral was ‘cleansed’ as a result. In 1561, it was abandoned and replaced by the parish church as the chief place of worship. St Rule’s was then left to fall into ruins.

Find out more about St Andrews Cathedral


Date Made
8th century-9th century
h 650mm (h 2' 1 9/16")
Property Information
St Andrews Cathedral
Object Number
Access Status