2.4.1 The material

The most ambitious of the funeral monuments are large-scale canopied tombs, generally with an effigy set on a chest tomb and framed by an elaborated arch (e.g. tomb of Princess Margaret, countess of Douglas, Lincluden Collegiate Church, Dumfries and Galloway: Figure 26; see also Figures 34–5). These tombs were often conceived of as an integral element of their architectural setting, and intended to emphasise the importance of the commemorated individual in life, and to attract the prayers of the passing faithful in death. At the opposite end of the scale are gravestones set into the floors of churches (e.g. Figures 27, 32). There are around 1300 examples of later medieval gravestones recorded from just over 400 sites (Fraser 2013). The most ubiquitous type bearing ‘Calvary cross’ designs (Figure 27). Detailed studies of cross-slabs have been carried out by Peter Ryder in the northern English counties (e.g. Ryder 2001), and he has plans to extend his survey to Scotland (pers comm. Richard Fawcett).

Black and white photograph of a canopied tomb with effigy of Margaret lying on a slab, within a wall

Figure 26: Tomb of Princess Margaret, countess of Douglas, Lincluden Collegiate Church, Dumfries and Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway. Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland

Black and white photo of dark stone rectangular cross slab leaning against a wall inside a building

Figure 27: Calvary cross graveslab, Corstorphine Parish Church, Edinburgh. Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland

Significant loss of material has occurred through post-Reformation iconoclasm, as well as destruction through conflicts and the re-use as building stone (Brydall 1895; Fraser 2013). Today, the majority of stones are no longer in situ, except for some rare exceptions that form part of an ecclesiastical structure (Fawcett 2002; Figures 26, 34–5). Distribution is uneven, with larger collections focussed on the ecclesiastical centres of St Andrews, Jedburgh and Melrose. However, the largest group of surviving later medieval gravestones is in the West Highlands, where they date from the 14th century until beyond the Reformation. There are over 870 pieces at 86 locations, including 108 associated with Iona alone, and it is arguably the densest concentration of its type anywhere in the medieval European world (Caldwell et al. 2010).

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