Welcome to the famous Govan Carved Stones, an important collection of early medieval carvings representing the earliest known art in Glasgow.
The stones comprise a range of thirty one monuments dating from the early Christian period, between the 9th and 11th centuries AD. The stones were found within the confines of the burial ground surrounding Govan Old Parish Church close to the River Clyde and the City of Glasgow.
Govan Old Parish Church is otherwise known as the Parish Church of Saint Constantine in Govan wherein Presbyterian worship is practised. In addition to the carved stones this 19th century building has an important collection of stained glass windows.
Govan Carved Stones represent one of the largest collections of early medieval sculpture in Scotland. They provide a record of the merging of cultures and regional powers which was in process at the time which include Strathclyde, Pictish, Irish, Cumbrian, Northumbrian and Scandinavian.
The site at Govan has experienced continuity of Christian worship for about 1500 years. There are indications that the Govan site and environs was a regional power base in S.W. Scotland before Glasgow rose to prominence. The carvings appear to be associated with burials of powerful persons as distinct from the purely ecclesiastical.
The Stones fall into four specific categories as follows:
An elaborately carved, but lidless, stone coffin which could have held the body of King Constantine ( 862-878) or his son, King Donald (889-900). This was carved from a single block of sandstone and dates from between the second half of the 9th century and mid 10th century. All four sides are decorated in low relief with panels of interlaced ribbons, animals and a single horseman.
Crosses and Cross-slabs.
These structures played an important role in the early Christian Church. Two crosses and two cross-slabs survive at Govan and all date from the 10th and 11th centuries AD. Within this group are:
The Jordanhill Cross the sides of which are decorated with panels of interlaced panels
The ‘cuddy stane’ named because cuddy is the Scots word for donkey which is a likeness of the animal carved on the stone.
The ‘sun stone’, a cross-slab featuring a great boss with swirling rays.
Twenty one such slabs survive and date from around the 9th-11th centuries AD following a change in burial practice from the upright to horizontal. The original slabs were carved with crosses and surrounded by interlace patterns. Many were re-used in the 17th and 18th centuries with initials and dates added (of the deceased).
There are five hogbacks at Govan which may represent two or three generations of people with Scandinavian links. The description ‘hogback’ derives the similarity of shape to the back of a pig and seems to have originated in the 19th century.
These monuments were designed to sit above the grave at ground level. The carvings appear to feature rows of roof tiles. At each end of the stone embracing animals can be found.
The hogback design appears to have originated In Yorkshire, England during the 10th century, when the area was dominated by Scandinavian culture, and then spread north-west into Pictland (Scotland).
A customised tour for groups of all sizes. Access subject to Church opening hours.
For more information contact Nigel:
T: 44 (0) 141 638 5500.
We look forward to hearing from you!