St Andrews Sarcophagus

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The St Andrews Sarcophagus.

The Saint Andrews Sarcophagus is a Pictish monument dating from the second half of the 8th century. The sarcophagus was recovered beginning in 1833 during excavations by St Andrew's Cathedral, but it was not until 1922 that the surviving components were reunited. The sarcophagus is currently on display at the Cathedral museum in St Andrews, close to the site of its discovery.

Description[edit]

As originally constructed the sarcophagus would have comprised two side panels, two end panels, four corner pieces and a roof slab. The roof slab is entirely missing, as are most of one side and one end panel and a corner piece so that the extant sarcophagus is essentially L-shaped. The external dimensions of the sarcophagus are 177 cm by 90 cm and a height of 70 cm. The stone used is a local sandstone.

The surviving side panel shows, from right to left, a figure breaking the jaws of a lion, a mounted hunter with his sword raised to strike a leaping lion, and hunter on foot, armed with a spear and assisted by a hunting dog, about to attack a wolf. Although it is not certain that the first two figures represent the same person, 19th century illustrations depict them as if they are. The surviving end panel is much simpler, essentially a cross with four small panels between the arms. The fragments of the missing end panel are similar, but not identical, to the surviving one.

Discovery[edit]

Historical opinion[edit]

This is the royal figure on the St Andrew's sarcophagus. The figure is dressed like a late antique Roman emperor, bearing on the neckline of the garment what is probably a kaiserfibel like that depicted on Justinian in the mosaic at San Vitale, Ravenna. This is in the grandest tradition of imitatio imperii. It may therefore be taken as an indirect depiction of the king who commissioned it.[1]

Historians differ on who was likely to have been interred in the sarcophagus. Although it is generally presumed that it was commissioned by the Pictish King Óengus or Onuist, who died in 761, whether it was actually used for his corpse,[2] for his predecessor, Nechtan mac Der Ilei,[3] or for a later personage[4] is unclear.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See T.M. Charles Edwards, "'The Continuation of Bede', s.a. 750: high-kings of Tara and 'Bretwaldas'".
  2. ^ MacLean, Douglas. "The Northumbrian Perspective" in Simon Taylor (ed.), Kings, clerics and chronicles in Scotland, 500–1297: essays in honour of Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000. ISBN 1-85182-516-9 (pp. 200–201)
  3. ^ Henderson, George & Isabel Henderson, The Art of the Picts, London: Thames and Hudson, 2004. 0-500-23807-3 (pp. 155–156)
  4. ^ Clancy, Thomas Owen. Caustantín son of Fergus (Uurgust) in The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 2002. ISBN 0-19-211696-7

References[edit]

  • Charles Edwards, T.M., "'The Continuation of Bede', s.a. 750: high-kings of Tara and 'Bretwaldas'" in Smyth (ed.), Seanchas, pp. 137–46.
  • Foster, Sally M. (ed.), The St Andrews Sarcophagus: A Pictish Masterpiece and its International Connections. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998. ISBN 1-85182-414-6
  • Henderson, George & Henderson, Isabel, The Art of the Picts: Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004. ISBN 0-500-23807-3
  • Smyth, Alfred P. (ed.), Seanchas: Studies in Early Medieval Irish Archaeology, History and Literature in Honour of Francis J. Byrne. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000. ISBN 1-85182-489-8

Coordinates: 56°20′22″N 2°47′15″W / 56.3394°N 2.7875°W / 56.3394; -2.7875