Friday, July 17, 2015

The Crosses of Raasay

One of the jewels of Rassay is its Pictish Symbol Stone. It lies in a small patch of ground east of the road north of Raasay House. The top of the stone has a square Chi-Rho cross that appears to be carved inside a Pictish mirror symbol. Below the cross is what's described as a tuning fork (or tongs), and at the bottom a crescent and V-Rod.

Raasay Symbol Stone
Although the symbol stone is easy to find, there was another Raasay cross, carved into the bedrock near the landing place below Raasay House, that I was only able to locate on my third visit to the island. I first read about this rock-carved cross in Boswell's Journal, where he mentions that 'on one of the rocks just where we landed...there is rudely drawn a square with a crucifix in the middle.'

On visits to Raasay in 1995 and 1998 I searched in vain for this cross. I walked back and forth all over 'The Battery', looking on every rock surface I could find. But I saw nothing that looked like a cross. The Battery is the little peninsula below Raasay house that was the main point for landing on the island before they built the ferry slip a mile and a half to the south.

These days the ferry lands at a new slip on The Battery, and on a visit last May I looked for the cross again. But this time I found it thanks to location details and photos on this CANMORE page. The cross lies just above the original landing place, on the southeast side of The Battery, where Boswell & Johnson landed in 1773. The cross is a sad sight, nearly completely worn away. So there is no way someone can find it without specific directions, and most everyone who arrives on Raasay these days drives (or walks) past the cross without even knowing it's there.

The cross is the same design as the mirror chi-rho cross on the symbol stone; and you can find a comparison drawing of the two crosses on the last page of Proc. Soc Antiq Scot Volume 41. Other good images can be found on page 64 of Proc. Soc Antiq Scot Vol 67, and on this Pictish Stones of Raasay page. Next time you are on Raasay be sure to pay your respect to this vestige of the past before it completely disappears.

The cross is on the exposed rock face at centre
Cross incised in the bedrock of the battery - Can you see it?  Probably not
Cross highlighted

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