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. The larger cross is the original of the copy which stands in the square outside, but this cross was found in the wall of the church during restoration in 1927.
It was uncovered when the harling was stripped off the north wall of the church. The back of the slab was what had been covered, so the carving had been protected by facing into the wall, and as such it is much sharper than the cross which stood outside.
Around the main ringed cross are several interesting carvings. At the top of the slab, either side of the cross, are two carvings of what has been interpreted as the whale which swallowed Jonah. On the left it is perhaps shown with his sword and shield, while on the left it is either swallowing or perhaps regurgitating him.
Below this are two seated clerical-looking figures who have been identified as St Paul and St Anthony. St Paul’s symbol was the date palm which fed him while in the wilderness, and carved beside him is what looks like a fruit-covered tree. St Anthony was encouraged by an angel to visit Paul, and this may be represented by the smaller figure carved above him on the slab.
Below Paul are two further clerical figures, but below Anthony the carving is hard to make out. The stone has obviously flaked away before carving, as the carving attempts to follow the line of the stone, but it seems that the carver gave up, and the stone may have been discarded because of this flaking.
At the time of the restoration of the church, two fragments of further cross slabs were also found being used as beam-filling. They appear to be from two separate Class III cross slabs.
Also in the walls, particularly at the SW of the church, several other large stones were noticed but weren’t removed. It has been speculated that these could also feature carvings on their other faces.
OS Map for Fowlis Wester Church
OS Explorer map 368/OL47
Buy from Ordnance Survey
Alternative names for Fowlis Wester Church
Fowlis Wester Parish Church