We wandered into the cloisters, following the signs for the ticket office. The ruins are free… but there is a small museum and a tower. The museum we were not too fussed about seeing, but it just shows you… never miss an opportunity! The place, though small, was amazing…
We descended the stairs into the vaulted crypt expecting very little… only to be met with a fabulous collection of cross marked gravestones from medieval times and fragments of Celtic and Pictish design from even earlier. There are symbols, strange to our eyes, perhaps, but which still have a resonance that we can understand today. Swords and shears are incised on many of them, signifying perhaps the cutting of the cords of life.
Many of the crosses look more like keys and really I suppose this is what they are… the keys to the afterlife… the key to the Kingdom. Carved in faith and hope… and sometimes perhaps in desperation and apology! Not all whose lips mouth prayers live either a good or pious life. One stone showed the geometries used by the mason to construct his pillars… hidden for centuries within the fabric of the building.
On the walls of the restored crypt, there are mason’s marks modern and freshly carved in an echo of an ancient tradition, side by side with older graffiti… consecration crosses, geometric symbols and odd designs that seem like the hieroglyphs of some arcane language. Yet although the idea is good, somehow the fresh, sharp lines seem crude beside the flowing, sinuous curves of the ancient stonemasons.
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