We understand that following a change of ownership of the manse, it is no longer possible to enter the garden and view the Glamis Manse Symbol Stone. For the moment the remainder of this page is as it was before this change took place: but please note that the comments about access are no longer correct.
The Glamis Manse Symbol Stone is a remarkably impressive example of a Pictish cross slab which stands in the front garden of the former manse at Glamis, which itself stands on the opposite side of Kirk Wynd to St Fergus Kirk. The manse is a private house, and while visitors are welcome to access the garden via the gate nearest the church to view and photograph the stone, remember to respect the privacy of the owners, and to close the gate.
The true scale of this stone can only be appreciated from close up. It measures 2.8m (or over nine feet) high by 1.5m broad and 24cm thick. Early early travel writers such as Thomas Pennant, who visited Glamis in 1772, spoke of the stone being located in the churchyard. The manse was built in 1788, and the current church was built in 1792 to replace a medieval church dedicated in 1242. Some sources suggest that the manse was built in part of what had previously been the churchyard, which means the stone might still stand in its original location.
It seems more likely, however, that the stone was moved from the churchyard to the manse garden, probably when the new church and manse were built. This view is supported by the discovery of a number of holes in the base of the stone, which might have been used to allow it to be levered out of the ground.
The Glamis Manse Symbol Stone is very unusual in that it appears to have been carved in two stages, possibly at widely different times. The rear or east facing side of the stone seems to have been what is known as a "Class I" stone, natural stones or pillars with incised carvings which are thought to have been carved relatively early in the Pictish era. Some time, possibly a century or two, later, someone took this natural stone and shaped it in order to allow the carving in relief of a cross on the other side. As a result the west side of the stone is typical of what are known as "Class II" shaped cross slabs. Only one other Pictish symbol stone ever appears to have been reused in this way, and it stands only half a mile away at Hunters Hill.
The carvings on the Glamis Manse Stone are almost as magnificent as the stone itself. The west face carries a cross that extends its full height and width and is decorated by interlacing patterns of different weights on different parts of the cross. The cross has been recreated in wood in the chancel of nearby St Fergus Kirk.
The quadrants, the spaces left on the stone around the cross, are fascinating. Top left is a four legged beast, while top right is a centaur carrying an axe in each hand. The lower right quadrant carries a picture of a deer's head above a triple ring pattern that is often thought to represent a cauldron seen from above. The lower left quadrant carries an image of two warriors apparently fighting with axes. And above them is a rather grisly image, a side view of a cauldron, from the top of which project two pairs of inverted human legs.
The rear face of the stone is equally intriguing. There are three clearly carved symbols, each neatly fitted into the uneven surface of the patterns and folds in the natural rock the artist was working with. Uppermost is a snake, apparently identical to one carved on the nearby Hunters Hill Stone. Beneath it is a leaping salmon. This finds an echo in the windvane on top of the spire of the kirk. The lowest symbol is of a mirror: sometimes taken as an indicator of a grave marker for a woman, but no-one really knows.
Two other fragments of Pictish Symbol Stones have turned up in the rockery of the manse at Glamis, in 1967 and 1984, and are on display in St Fergus Kirk.