15th century carvings discovered at Scottish cathedral

15th century carvings discovered at Scottish cathedral

Stone carvings which had lain hidden for centuries have been discovered at Dunkeld Cathedral in Scotland. At least a dozen carved saint-like figures were found by a conservation team from Historic Environment Scotland.

The torch-lit discovery within the obscured recesses of the tomb of Robert de Cardeny, which dates from 1420, was followed by a second, more in-depth assessment undertaken using cutting-edge 3D photogrammetric technology. A detailed 3D model was created by obtaining multiple images using cameras and mirrors, enabling a closer look at the carvings which had been previously hidden from direct view.

Robert de Cardeny was the longest serving Bishop of Dunkeld Cathedral, serving from 1398 to 1437. Not unusually, the tomb was created before his death, in this case 17 years before.

The unearthing of these stone carvings has shed new light on the history of the site, revealing that the tomb has at some point been moved and built into the wall from its original free-standing location. Colin Muir, Stone Conservator at Historic Environment Scotland who led the discovery, commented: “The discovery of these rare, hidden carvings behind the 15th century tomb of Bishop Cardeny is very exciting, and will enrich our understanding of the history of Dunkeld Cathedral and late medieval stone carving.

“This discovery also gives fresh incentive for further research and exploration of the site, as we still don’t know when exactly the tomb was moved, or why. This discovery also hints that there may still be other obscured areas of detail preserved within the walls behind the tomb.

“Conservation works to protect the fabric of the tomb are currently being planned, and we hope to undertake further investigation of what may lie behind it. At this stage we don’t know what, if anything, remains – but it will be fascinating to find out.”

Dunkeld Cathedral has long been an important ecclesiastical centre, with relics of St Columba brought to Dunkeld from Iona by King Kenneth McAlpin in 849. The cathedral was developed over a period of around 250 years, which the earliest surviving section – the choir – dating from the late 1200s. It is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland.

Top Image: The interior of Dunkeld Cathedral in Dunkeld, Scotland. Photo: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

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