Some Pictish sculpture looks deceptively simple in its design but the skill needed to carve such stones is extremely high. For me, this is one of the most exquisite.
At first glance this carved slab looks like a simple ringed cross set on a solid base. The spirals flowing from the raised edge of the stone are the only decoration. But look more closely and the master craftsmanship of the mason shines out. The arms of the cross are not rectangular – they narrow towards their ends. The shaft is different. It widens towards the base and, rather than vertical edges, its sides are angled. A great deal of thought was applied to this not-so-simple cross. It’s a highly sophisticated piece. And there’s more …
Looking even more closely you can see that the mason has carved a cross that has more depth at its centre than its edges. The evidence is in the depth of the shadows. The design is reinforcing the significance of the word of God – the focus of the cross. Although a first glance at the stone suggests it is a flat, rectangular block it is actually much more subtle than that. The upper surface of the stone is curved in an arc from its centre point. How clever is that?
But that’s not all. The smoothness of both the background to the cross and the cross itself reflects a mason’s patience and skill that is almost incredible. Take all of these elements together and this is why I regard this sculptured stone a masterpiece.