The Govan Stones

Hogbacks, The Govan Stones redisplay
The Govan Stones

Much has been written about the early medieval beginnings of Govan. Its strategic position at the centre of an ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde (this stretched as far as Carlisle to the South, and perhaps the Campsie Fells and Loch Lomond to the North) led to the formation of an early Royal Court where all powerful kings established their base having retreated inland following battles with Vikings!

These wonderfully carved, and textured stones are a testament to this chapter of history and have recently been redisplayed through a lighting and exhibition design led by York Archaeological Trust and architect Alan Balmer that highlight the intricacies of these stones within the fantastic setting of Govan Old church. If you haven’t seen these they really are worth a visit and to walk along the river front, a wander through Govan and perhaps a pint in the traditional interior of Brechins bar or a meal in the relaxing Cafe 13 at Govan Cross.

Heart Of The Kingdom‘  is a definitive voice on this period of history by Tim Clarkson historian and author of  ‘The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland’and more recently ‘Strathclyde and the Anglo Saxons in the Viking Age’.

“The thirty-one carved stones at Govan Old Parish Church represent one of the largest collections of early medieval sculpture in Scotland. These remarkable examples of Celtic art were produced between the 9th and 11th centuries AD at a time when Govan was a focus of royal power and religious ritual. The artworks include crosses, interlace patterns and figures of humans and animals, while the shapes of the stones themselves range from simple rectangular slabs to the enigmatic hogbacks. Common stylistic features indicate that Govan was the centre of a distinctive local ‘school’ of stonecarving whose craftsmen drew inspiration from Pictland, Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England. The artistic traditions of the Govan School spread outward across Strathclyde and can still be seen today in Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire and other parts of the old kingdom.” ( with thanks to Tim Clarkson for providing this description of the stones)

Below is a picture of a fantastic installation in 2014 that occupies an archway in the church right next to these mysterious and beautiful stones.  The screen is a highlight of ‘The Weaving Truth With Trust’ collaborative project led by artists, Geraldine Greene, Alexandra Bowie, Ingrid Shearer, and Fiona Fleming, to explore and reinterpret Govan’s relationship to the textile and weaving industry.

WTWT Govan, Glasgow