The cross-slab stone at Shandwick is covered with Christian symbols. This is an expression of Pictish Christianity rather than being a stone which combines pagan and religious designs.
There were probably a number of monastic settlements along this coast under control of the large monastery at nearby Portmahomack.
The stone is called Clach a’Charaidh in Gaelic meaning ‘stone of the grave plots’.
It lies slightly inland and has been preserved in a glass shelter. It is said to have been a landmark for sailors traveling along this coast.
The cross consists of circular bosses and is surrounded by interlocking spirals. Across the surface of the stone, intertwined snakes coil around each other.
These snakes had a religious significance – they are associated with evil and the temptation of Adam and Eve. In medieval times, snakes also signified rebirth and regeneration as they burrow underground and re-emerge having shed their old skin.
There are five panels of decoration on the back of the stone. The carvings include beasts, hunting scenes, men on horseback, fighting swordsmen and a hunter carrying a cross-bow.
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