NS4863 : The Barochan Cross

taken 4 years ago, near to Paisley, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

The Barochan Cross
The Barochan Cross
The cross stands in the south-western corner of the nave of Paisley Abbey. Estimates of its age vary, but it is generally considered to date from between the eighth century and the tenth century.

For a long time, the cross stood near the Mill of Barochan. In about the 1850s, it was moved a short distance from there to a hilltop position: NS4069 : Stone-topped knoll at Corsliebar. It suffered weathering; what appear to be signs of repair work can be seen on the near side of the stone.

In 1981 it was brought to this location within the abbey. As a work of sculpture, the Barochan Cross is an important example of the Govan School. I need not describe its artwork here, since such information is readily available elsewhere.

The Canmore database has more on the stone, with references and (at the time of writing) some pictures of it in its earlier hilltop setting: LinkExternal link

(As an aside: compare a NS4462 : Memorial to Sir Charles Bine Renshaw just a few miles away in Elderslie; that memorial is a conscious imitation of the Barochan Cross, but without the historical figures.)

In the same corner of the nave is a stone on which the arms of John Hamilton, Archbishop of St Andrews and former Abbot of Paisley, are flanked by his initials I H. Below these is the motto Misericordia et Pax. The stone may have marked the burial place of the remains of the archbishop.
Paisley Abbey
The abbey's website – LinkExternal link – provides a summary of its history, and other information.

It is thought that an early religious community was established at Paisley by St Mirin. In the twelfth century, Walter FitzAlan, High Steward of Scotland, had a priory established on his lands in Paisley, to be founded by monks of the Cluniac order; one of Walter's charters confirms certain lands "to God and Saint Mary, and the church of St James, and St Mirin, and St Myldburge de Passelet [Paisley], and to the priors and monks serving God there according to the order of Clugny".

In its design, the original priory was modelled on the Abbey of Cérise in France. The religious establishment at Paisley was elevated to the status of an abbey in 1245, after lengthy negotiations.

The abbey suffered grievous damage during the Wars of Independence: according to an annal entry (here translated from the original Latin), "in this year, 1307, the English burnt the Monastery of Paisley"; nothing remained but blackened walls. Some repair work was started in 1317, but little progress was made for several decades: however, by 1389-90, we have notice of glass being purchased for the abbey's windows, showing that repairs were then well under way.

A great deal of rebuilding was carried out during the time of Abbot Thomas Tervas (mid-fifteenth century), and, a little later, by Abbot George Shaw. The buildings appear to have been damaged by fire towards the end of the same century. It also seems that, at some point in the abbey's history, its central tower collapsed, damaging adjacent structures.

At the time of the Reformation (1560), the damage done to the abbey was limited, perhaps partly because the building was already in poor condition.

Subsequent developments will not be described here in detail, but it is worth noting several restorations of the abbey that were carried out in recent centuries: (1) 1788-89, under the supervision of Dr Robert Boog, minister of the First Charge at the Abbey (Boog was also responsible for piecing together what is now called the Tomb of Marjorie Bruce); (2) 1859-62, under ministers Andrew Wilson and J Cameron Lees; (3) 1898-1907, under the ministers Thomas Gentles and J B Dalgety; and (4) 1912-28 (but interrupted in 1918 by the War), under A M Maclean and W Fulton. See Howell, cited below, for details.

In the 1990s, the Great Drain below the abbey was rediscovered (see Malden, cited below); it has subsequently yielded many interesting artefacts, some of which are now displayed in the Sacristy Museum, within the abbey.

Selected references:

▪ "Historical Description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley", Charles Mackie (1835).
▪ "The Abbey of Paisley", J Cameron Lees (1878).
▪ "Paisley Abbey: Its History, Architecture, & Art", Rev A R Howell (1929).
▪ "The Monastery and Abbey of Paisley" (various contributors), edited by John Malden (2000).
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NS4863, 883 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Monday, 26 August, 2013   (more nearby)
Submitted
Thursday, 26 September, 2013
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Religious sites 
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Indoor 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4852 6394 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:50.6888N 4:25.2539W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4852 6394
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West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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