Carved in relief on both faces, Pictish standing stones remain something of a mystery. The later slabs usually contain a cross as well as numerous Pictish symbols which may have mythological or religious meanings. However, as many symbols appear in pairs they may designate particular lineages or kindreds. These stones are only found around the north-east coast and three of the finest examples of this type were produced in the Tarbat peninsula, including this one at Nigg.
Gradually, between 600 and 800 AD, most of the Picts were converted to Christianity. It is during this time that the carved stones for which the Picts are renowned were produced.
The cross-slab at Nigg is designated a Class 2 stone. A Class 2 Pictish stone is regarded as a major work of art dating from the 8th and 9th centuries. They are rectangular slabs, usually of sandstone, decorated with Pictish symbols and Christian motifs.
The decoration has similarities with the 8th century free-standing crosses on Iona, the St Andrews Sarcophagus (a Pictish royal shrine) and the Book of Kells. The large cross is set against a background of bosses made up of snakes, and the pediment above illustrates an episode in the life of St Paul the Hermit as told by St Jerome. On the reverse there is an eagle symbol, with hunting scenes, and an illustration of the Biblical story of how David killed a lion in order to save a lamb in his flock.
A detached fragment, including part of a Pictish beast symbol was found in 1998. It is currently in Tain Museum. The stone now stands inside the church at Nigg.
This plate is taken from 'A Short Account of some Carved Stones in Ross-shire, accompanied with a series of Outline Engravings' by Charles Carter Petley and published in 'Archaeologia Scotica or Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland', vol IV (1857)
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