This is a small museum containing a collection of beautifully carved Pictish stones in the old school house in the centre of the village. Most of the stones were found in the adjacent churchyard. The present church dates from 1870 but there has probably been a church on this site for over a thousand years.
The Pictish Kingdom spread from the far north of Scotland to the River Forth. Meigle was an important religious centre associated with the ruling aristocracy with a Pictish site. The Picts developed from tribes in iron age Scotland and formed a unique cultural and political identity. They were a warrior people led by powerful kings and lords. They left no written language and are only records are the carved stones they left. They became Christianised and disappeared around 900AD. The Vikings were responsible for wiping out many of the Pictish nobility in a battle in 839AD, The Picts came under the contra of Cinead Mac Alpine, a Gaelic king dorm Dál Riata. He brought together the different tribes into a new kingdom of Alba which eventually became Scotland.
The stones date from late 8th to late 10thC and were carved from the local sandstone. There are large display boards giving some information about the Picts, their carvings and symbols. Each of the stones is catalogued and numbered. Some of the stones have additional information about them.
There are three large cross slabs, grave markers and a selection of smaller fragments of larger stones. We felt this was a much better collection than that at St Vigean's (see review) as lighting is better and you are allowed to take photographs as long as you don't use flash.
MEIGLE 1 is a large cross slab stone which is embedded in a modern slab of concrete. On the wall next to it is a plaster cast of the cup marks from the base of the shaft. It was carved in the late 8thC. The cross is decorate with an interlaced pattern and has circles carved out at the corners of the cross shaft. Down the sides are carved animals. On the reverse side is a fish at the top of the stone. Below is a serpent, a mirror and comb, figures on horseback and an animal with a long curved tail.
MEIGLE 2 is another large cross slab with a wheel head cross on the front decorated with raised studs. There are Pictish symbols and animals craved on the shaft and on either side. The reverse side are mounted horsemen with dogs. In the centre is a human surrounded by vicious animals. There is a suggestion this could be Daniel in the lion's den. Another school of thought thinks it might be King Arthur's queen Guinevere who was abducted by Mordred and then condemned by Arthur to be torn apart by wild animals. Below is a centaur with branches and at the bottom are two animals fighting with a small man holding a club.
MEIGLE 3 is a fragment of a cross slab dating from the 9thC. On one side is a beautiful carving of a mounted Pictish warrior wearing a sword and holding a spear. On the reverse is the top of a cross with an angular pattern carved on it.
MEIGLE 4 has been broken and part of the cross is missing. On one side is an cross filled with interlacing. At the corners are animals and there is more interlacing at the base. On the reverse is a horseman with two interlaced serpents to his right. Below him are three animals and a crescent with V-rod. At the base are more Pictish beasts.
MEIGLE 5 is a fragment of a beautifully interlaced cross carved in high relief. At the base of the shaft are two animal heads. There are more animals at the corners of the cross. The whole is surrounded by a carved border. On the reverse is a very eroded carving of a man on horseback. On the side is a carving of a beast and a mirror. This is a fairly small stone and it is thought it was an upright gravestone.
MEIGLE 6 again has been broken. It has the headless figure of a horseman with a double disc below, a crescent and a dog, all set in a zig-zag border. On the back is the base of an cross shaft with a geometric design.
MEIGLE 7is the top portion of a cross with a double disc and Z-rod on the reverse.
MEIGLE 9 is a recumbent grave marker designed to be laid flat over a grave and has animal carvings.
MEIGLE 11 is another recumbent grave marker with deeply recessed panels and very eroded carvings of animals and bosses.
MEIGLE 12 is a recumbent grave marker and there is the remains of the slot where the shaft of a wooden cross would have been placed. On the top os a simple geometric design described as 'lozenges' which reflects viking influence. On the side are is a dog biting the leg of a deer and two bulls charging each other.
MEIGLE 14 Is a fragment of a cross slab with a carving of a cleric holding a book.
MEIGLE 21 is a cross slab stone with a crudely executed cross with an interwoven pattern.
MEIGLE 22 is part of what is described as an architectural frieze This has a strange humanoid figure with entwined legs ending in fish tails and holding curled serpents. On the right is a carvng of an otter. On the left is a bear.
MEIGLE 25 is a hog backed tombstone from the late 10thC and is completely different to the rest of the stones. It is covered by what can best be described as 'tiles' or 'scales'. The stone is tapered and has a crest along the top and looks a bit like a fish. It reflects a viking influence.
MEIGLE 26 is a recumbent grave marker with animals carved along the sides and the top. At one end is a socket to hold a wooden cross. At the top are three snakes coiled round each other. The central panel is divided into four triangles, each containing three bosses. At the bottom is what is described as two dancing sea horses facing each other, with two bird's beaks below them. On the sides are a hunting scene and mythical beasts.
If you like carved stones and are interested in the history of the Picts, this is a must.