Camus Cross

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This article is about the Class III standing stone in Angus. For the Crofting township on the Isle of Skye, see Camuscross.

Coordinates: 56°31′50″N 2°47′01″W / 56.530647°N 2.783570°W / 56.530647; -2.783570

Camus Cross
Camus cross.jpg
The Camus Cross, East face.
Material Old Red Sandstone
Size 2 metres (6.6 ft)
Classification Type III, freestanding cross
Symbols Christ and evangelists
Crucifixion (weathered)
Foliar designs
Created Tenth Century CE
Present location Camuston Wood, near Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland

The Camus Cross, otherwise known as the Camuston or Camustane Cross, is an Early Medieval Scottish standing stone located on the Panmure Estate near Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland. First recorded in the 15th century in a legal document describing the boundaries between Camuston and the barony of Downie, and described in the 17th century by Robert Maule, it is a freestanding cross, rare in Eastern Scotland.

The cross is thought to date from the tenth century, and exhibits distinctive Hiberno-Scottish mission influences, in common with several other monuments in the area. Tradition and folk etymology suggest that the cross marked the burial site of Camus, leader of the Norse army purportedly defeated by King Malcolm II at the apocryphal Battle of Barry. The name of the stone is likely to derive from the extinct village of Camuston, which has a Celtic toponymy.


The Camus Cross is in the Downie Hills, approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) northwest of Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland.[1] It is situated at the centre of a 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long avenue leading east-north-east through Camuston Wood from the Panmure Testimonial to the Craigton to Carnoustie road, at (grid reference NO519379). The avenue is part of Panmure Estate and leads, beyond the road, to the former site of Panmure House.


Shaft detail, showing foliar scrolls on southern edge

The freestanding cross is carved from Old Red Sandstone and stands 2 metres (6.6 ft) high, approximately 0.6 metres (2.0 ft) wide at the base, 0.8 metres (2.6 ft) wide at the arms, and approximately 0.2 metres (0.66 ft) thick. It stands on a low earth mound, 7.5 metres (25 ft) wide (east to west), 4.5 metres (15 ft) wide (north to south) and 1 metre (3.3 ft) high, in the centre of the Camuston Wood avenue, facing east to west. All faces and sides are sculpted. The cross has suffered significant weathering, most notably on the west face, which has obscured some of the designs.[2]

The stone bears no idiomatic Pictish symbols and, under J Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson's classification system, it is a class III stone.[3] Intact freestanding crosses of this age are comparatively rare, perhaps due to their vulnerability to damage, and the only ones in Eastern Scotland are the Camus Cross and the Dupplin Cross in Strathearn. Fragmentary remains of other crosses include heads found at Forteviot, St Vigeans and Strathmartine and shaft fragments found at Monifieth, Abernethy, Carpow and Invermay, as well as some socketed stones where crosses once stood.[4]

The western face is divided into three sections. The uppermost section is almost completely weathered. The antiquarian Alexander Gordon, who described the stone in 1726 in his Itinerarium Septentrionale, records this panel as holding a crucifixion scene, with the figure of a man at the right hand side and the left side completely defaced. Below this is a depiction of a centaur holding a bow, with the lowest panel having a symmetrical floral scroll design.[5]

The Brechin Hogback

The eastern face is usually interpreted as a depiction of Christ flanked by angels above the four evangelists,[6] although Robert Maule, in the earliest description of the stone, described the scene as Moses giving out the Law.[5]

The carving on the Camus Cross shows distinct similarities with those on the Brechin Hogback stone and point to an Irish Ecclesiastical influence. The foliar designs on the north and south edges, originally seen as Ringerike-like (and hence, Scandinavian in origin), consist of tendrils and volutes with "wave-crest" thickening. These features bear closest similarity with Irish insular art of the late tenth century, and the treatment of the symmetrical foliar scroll design on the lower portion of the west face is diagnostically Irish. The full-face figures on the east face are of an identical type to those on the Brechin Hogback. In the case of the Brechin Hogback, the figures are carrying objects that are characteristic of early medieval Irish monasticism.[7]


The Camus Cross, west face

The Camus Cross is currently thought to be a late Pictish/early Gaelic era monument, dating from the 10th century.[8] The earliest record of it is in a legal document of 1481, describing the boundary of the lands of Camuston, owned by Sir Thomas Maule, and the barony of Downy, owned by the Earl of Crawford. The boundary was described as running "a magna cruce lapidea de Cambiston" ('from the great stone cross of Camuston').[9] It was mentioned in the context of the Battle of Barry in Hector Boece's Historia Gentis Scotorum in 1527,[10] and first described in detail by the antiquarian Robert Maule, who erected it at its present position in 1620, after moving it six feet to centralise it within the Camuston Wood avenue.[11]

Camus was the supposed leader of a Norse expeditionary force defeated by the armies of King Malcolm II at the Battle of Barry. Tradition, popularised in the sixteenth century by historian Hector Boece, states that Camus fled the battle scene when defeat was imminent, and was caught and slain at the point where the cross now stands. The battle, and its main protagonists, including Camus, are now known to be historically inauthentic.[13]

The name of the cross is likely to derive from the village of Camuston. No trace of this village can be seen today, and it had ceased to exist by the time of the first Ordnance Survey map, published in 1888, but surveyed in 1857 to 1859.[14] Its former location is indicated in the 1794 map by Ainslie, about half a mile to the east of the cross.[15] Camuston can be found with earlier spelling variations, for example, 'Cambistown' as it is called in documents from 1425 and 1426,[16] and has a Celtic rather than Scandinavian etymology.[17]

A burial disinterred in 1598, near the Camus cross, was attributed by Maule as being the body of Camus:

Not far thearfra in the bank of Camstone, the zeir of God Im fywe hundrethe nyntie and aught zeiris, thear wos ane greawe fownd withe ane bread stone on eury quarter thearof efter the forme of ane malt cobile, quharin did ly the heale bons of ane man of gryt statwre, the thee bone quharof ves neir als longue as bothe the schank and thee bone of any reasonable man of this age, the harne pan gryte, and vanted the palme bread of ane hand thearof, quhilk had beine the straik as appeirithe of ane sword, it wes thought to heawe beine Cames the chief mans bwriel.[12]

Little information of the burial exists, but goods found in the cist were kept at Brechin Castle. These were sketched by Jervise and are typical of Bronze Age artifacts, found fairly commonly in the area.[11]


Avenue leading to Camus Cross
  1. ^ "Dundee and Montrose, Forfar and Arbroath", Ordnance Survey Landranger Map (B2 ed.), 2007, ISBN 0-319-22980-7 
  2. ^ "Camus's Cross, site record", Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, retrieved 29 July 2010 
  3. ^ Allen, J.R.; Anderson, J. (1903), Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Balgavies, Angus: Pinkfoot Press (1993 facsimile), p. 26 
  4. ^ Borland, J.; Fraser, I.; Sherriff, J. (2007), "Eight socketed stones from Eastern Scotland", Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal 13: 107 
  5. ^ a b Gordon, A (1726). "Itinerarium Septentirionale p 154-155.". In Guthrie, W. (1767). A general history of Scotland: from the earliest accounts to the present time, Volume 1. London: Robinson and Roberts. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  6. ^ Anderson, Joseph (1881), Scotland in Early Christian Times - The Rhind Lectures in Archaeology for 1880, Edinburgh: David Douglas, pp. 156–157, retrieved 29 November 2010 
  7. ^ Lang, J.T. (April 1972), "Hogback monuments in Scotland", Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 105: 206–235, retrieved 29 July 2010 
  8. ^ Walker, B; Ritchie, G (1996), Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Fife, Perthshire and Angus (2 ed.), Edinburgh: HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office), p. 138 
  9. ^ Maule, Harry (1874), Stuart, John, ed., Registrum de Panmure. Records of the families of Maule, De Valoniis, Brechin, and Brechin-Barclay, united in the line of the Barons and Earls of Panmure, Edinburgh: Fox Maule-Ramsay, p. xxiv 
  10. ^ Boece, Hector (1527), Historia Gentis Scotorum XI (1575 ed.), retrieved 22 October 2010 
  11. ^ a b Jervise, A (1854-57). "Notices descriptive of the localities of certain sculptured stone monuments in Forfarshire, viz., – Benvie, and Invergowrie; Strathmartin, and Balutheran; Monifieth; Cross of Camus, and Arbirlot. Part III". Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2: 442–452. 
  12. ^ a b Maule, Harry (1874), Stuart, John, ed., Registrum de Panmure. Records of the families of Maule, De Valoniis, Brechin, and Brechin-Barclay, united in the line of the Barons and Earls of Panmure, Edinburgh: Fox Maule-Ramsay, pp. xciv – xcv 
  13. ^ "Carnoustie, Battle of Barry: Battle site (possible)", Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Canmore Database, retrieved 30 September 2010 
  14. ^ "Sheet 49 – Arbroath", Ordnance Survey, One-inch to the mile maps of Scotland 1st Edition – 1856–1891, 1888, retrieved 14 October 2010 
  15. ^ Ainslie, J. (1794), Map of the county of Forfar or Shire of Angus, retrieved 2 September 2008 
  16. ^ Jervise, A. (1861). Memorials of Angus and the Mearns: being an account, historical, antiquarian, and traditionary of the castles and towns visited by Edward I and the barons, clergy and others who swore fealty to England in 1291-6. Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black. 
  17. ^ Worsaae, J.J.A. (1852). An account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland and Ireland. London: John Murray. 

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