Dalmeny Kirk (St Cuthbert’s Church) is probably the best-preserved Romanesque parish church in Scotland. Outside its impressive south door is a 12th-century stone sarcophagus with figure sculpture, now badly worn. Less well known are six medieval grave slabs inside the church, probably placed in their present positions during the restoration of 1937.

(1) In centre of chancel floor below sanctuary step. Unusually elongate slab (2.02 m long, 0.36 m wide at top tapering to 0.30m) of brown fine-grained sandstone. Design incised except for sunk panels in head. Rather irregular four-circle cross within ring, rising from stepped base, with pair of shears on l. of shaft. Stylistically this is quite an early stone, probably of the 12th century. The shears are the conventional female emblem.

(2) Chancel floor, north side. Large rectangular ‘floor stone’ (1.93 m by 1.00 m), with incised design, in good condition. The central motif is a sword with a round pommel and square quillons; on either side is a smaller straight-armed cross rising from a simple but rather peculiar stylised stepped base. There is a modern copy of this stone beneath the altar. This is unusual both in being a double slab, with two crosses. Such stones normally commemorate a husband and wife, and their crosses are accompanied by appropriate emblems (usually a sword and a pair of shears or key), but here the only emblem is a single large sword. Did it commemorate two brothers? It is recorded that a double stone coffin was found during the 1937 restoration, was it associated with this slab?

(3) In the floor immediately south-east of (2). Rectangular slab bearing only a small roughly-incised cross. The neatly cut and finished slab contrasts with the very rough cross, which might otherwise be of very early date. Probably Pre-Reformation, but difficult to say more than that….

(4) In floor on north side of Sanctuary. Tapering slab with chalice (r) and clasped book (l) carve d in quite bold relief. The traditional emblems of

the priest; the chalice is a little unusual in having a concave top. Probably later medieval.

(5) Immediately south-west of (4). Smaller tapered slab with simple incised straight-arm cross, quite worn. Difficult to date, but perhaps 12th century.

(6) Built into internal face of south wall of nave, midway along, 1 m above floor. Head of small slab with cross head of four broken circles. Incised except for the four sunk roundels, crudely laid out, rough pointed buds. 12th century.

Peter F Ryder August 2020

Medieval Grave Slabs.jpg