In St Bean‘s church at Fowlis Wester, parts of which date to the 13th century, are two Pictish cross slabs, and fragments of other stones. This cross – the larger of the two – is the original of the copy which stands in the square outside. The smaller cross was found in the wall of the church during restoration in 1927, which stands against the wall behind this cross.
This cross slab is over 3m tall, and is a Class II stone – that is to say it features a cross on the front, and Pictish symbols on the back. It is unusual in that the side arms of the cross extend beyond the edges of the slab.
It has suffered weathering as a result of standing in the village, where it is said it was erected after being brought from its original position at the mouth of the Sma’ Glen. It was moved into the church in August 1991 and replaced with a replica.
There are traces of carved birds and beasts at the foot of the shaft. The rear of the stone is much more interesting, as it is covered in Pictish symbols, animals and figures. A double-disc and Z-rod at the top – a common symbol on Pictish stones – may represent a Pictish king, as may a crescent and V-rod symbol towards the bottom.
There are depictions of horsemen – one with a hawk – and man in a long tunic leading a cow with a bell round its neck.
Following the cow are six more bearded figures, two of whom may be carrying shields or perhaps buckets.
Elizabeth Sutherland suggested that this could represent the worship of the Golden Calf, or perhaps a local festival now forgotten. Further down still are a crescent and V-rod – another probable personal symbol – and a bird, possibly an eagle. Right at the bottom is a man apparently being eaten by a monster of some description.
OS Map for Fowlis Wester
OS Explorer map 368/OL47
Buy from Ordnance Survey
Alternative names for Fowlis Wester
Cross of Foulis; Cross Of Fowlis; Fowlis Wester Church