The beginnings of Scottish Christianity
The number and nature of the sculptures found at Kirkmadrine show that the early church there was of great importance. There’s evidence that an early ecclesiastical site stood here, perhaps in the second half of the AD 500s.
Galloway was British in early medieval times, but it had strong networks with Ireland. Some cultural influences are visible on the local sculpture. Together with nearby Whithorn Priory, Kirkmadrine emphasises the importance of this westernmost tip of the region for the introduction of Christianity in Scotland.
Ancient Christian memorials
The three oldest memorials, known as Kirkmadrine 1, 2 and 3, probably date from the AD 500s. They have Latin inscriptions and Greek chi-rho crosses, and they commemorate priests:
- Kirkmadrine 1 reads HIC IACENT S(AN)C(T)I ET PRAECIPUI SACER DOTES IDES VIVENTIUS ET MAVORIUS (‘Here lie the holy and chief priests, Ides, Viventius and Mavorius’)
- Kirkmadrine 2 commemorates someone named Florentius
- Kirkmadrine 3 alludes to the Book of Revelation: ‘the beginning and the end’. It may not have been a burial marker and may instead have been located in a liturgical context in the church
The three are directly associated with the churchyard, and stood in the burial ground until the 1840s. They’re three of the oldest Christian memorials in Scotland – the oldest being the Latinus Stone at Whithorn.
The Kirkmadrine Stones are the most northerly examples of a sculptural phenomenon that ranges throughout the western part of the Brittonic-speaking world. They’re crucial in understanding northern Britain as it emerged from the shadow of Imperial Rome in the AD 400s.