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Friends of Grampian Stones

Friends of Grampian Stones

Breacbannoch of Columba

Friends of Grampian Stones

Monymusk Reliquary Monymusk Reliquary, now in the Museum of Scotland,
probably dating from the 8th century, was brought from Iona to Pictland and housed a relic of the island's founder Saint Columba.

It is mentioned in 12th century charters at Forglen near Turriff, where it was kept on behalf of the Monastery of Abirbrothock (Arbroath) with permission from William the Lion, King of Scotland granted in a Deed dated between 1178-1214 held in Arbroath Charter Chest. It remained in the custodianship of Forglen until the early 16th century when Forglen and the House of Monymusk were in Forbes hands; with transfer of ownership from Sir William Forbes, Bart. to Lord Cullen (Senator of the College of Justice, Sir Francis Grant of Cullen) in 1712, the shrine became part of the Grant collection. It was bought for the Nation in 1933.
Breac-bannoch in Gaelic means the 'speckled peaked one' describing the Reliquary's Pictish decoration punched into silver panels which form a background of zoomorphic figures into which have been set bronze round, square and bird-beak shaped clasps. This 'speckling' is typical of monastic / Pictish decorative work found in 8th century jewellery, ritual ornament and religious scrollwork. The original silver coating of the tiny wooden casket was gilded and its raised bronze mounts set with enamel and lapis lazuli. It is smaller than a man's hand, carved out of a single piece of wood: 4-1/4 inches long by 2-1/8 inches in height to the opening of the lid, by 2 inches deep. The ark-shaped lid is trapezoid, 1-3/4 inches high by 2-1/2 inches along the ridge, its gable ends forming equilateral triangles of 1-3/4 inches per side.

Its miniature scale (above illustration is approximately life-size) made it a portable shrine worn round the neck, usually by a guardian monk. Its association with Columba, the warrior saint, was believed to transmit the same potency in battle and the shrine was paraded before the Scots army prior to the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314. It is not unique in its use as a battle standard: both the relics (bone) and the crosier - baculum - of a saint were considered potent in vanquishing the enemy. It may be for this very reason that the Scots Chronicles record first king of both Picts and Scots, Cinaed (Kenneth) mac Alpin, sometime before AD849 transporting relics of Columba from Iona to a religious foundation in Dunkeld near his recently-conquered palace at Forteviot, former capital of the Pictish Kingdom. This may have been an effort on his part to display power through the saint and he may have taken over the foundation at Dunkeld because it was previously a powerful ecclesiastical centre founded by the long-reigning and well-loved Pictish king, Constantine [Custantin], who died AD820, 20 years before the MacAlpin takeover see Dupplin page
The house-shape of such reliquaries seems to have influenced later medieval 'sacrament houses' built into pre-Reformation churches in Scotland to keep holy vessels used in the sacrament.
1999-2000 Marian Youngblood

Also found at Monymusk is the unusual Pictish Cross Slab
Friends of Grampian Stonesis a non-profit charitable organization registered in Scotland with the Capital Taxes Office number ED/455/89/JP
1998, 1999, 2000 Friends of Grampian Stones
Editor: Marian Youngblood

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